A novel which starts out as a love story in war-threatened Russia, which then plays out as a long, savage struggle for survival as the Nazis besiege Leningrad. For the most part, the writing remains compelling and shows the very worst of humanity, but also the huge grasp and grip on family and society. The historical references and research occasionally get a little over-represented, however, and feel a little intrusive. This is, however, powerful stuff, with some of the images heart breaking and harrowing. Things take a little while to get going, though once set, the intensity is ratcheted right up and the details and means of survival presented in an existence which must have been truly appalling.