A short novel of extraordinary power, set in Leningrad during the WWII siege, reminiscent of Rachel Seiffert and Bernhard Schlink in both its brevity and its impact.
When German troops surround Leningrad and cut off food supplies in the autumn of 1941, no one imagines that the siege will last almost three years and take hundreds of thousands of lives. As the first 'hungry winter' sets in, the city's residents strip the bark off trees, boil and eat moss-covered stones, and trade priceless antiques for half a loaf of bread - and sex for a chunk of sugar. But the scientists at the Institute of Plant Industry pledge to protect their collection of rare seeds, painstakingly gathered from all over the world, no matter what the human cost.
Through the eyes of one of the scientists we see how his small group of colleagues, including his quietly determined wife, Alena, splinters between those who would preserve their principles at the price of starvation, and others who turn to deception - and more sinister measures - to survive. A powerful, stunningly precise and beautifully written novel about human nature under life's harshest pressures.