I am glad I read The Eighth Day of the Week by Marek Hlasko before reading Hunger by Elise Blackwell because it put me in the right frame of mind. Both are very intimate first hand accounts of the effects of the Second World War. Blackwell's novel covers the siege of Leningrad (September 1941 through January 1944) and focuses on the botanists at the Vavilov Institute who protected their collection of seeds despite the starvation faced by the city.
Hunger like The Eighth Day of the Week is a short novel, only 131 pages. The narrator, a not entirely sympathetic character, shuffles together the brutal truth of his wife's starvation and his affair during the siege with memories of the seed collecting trips, elaborate meals once eaten and the history of Babylon. The combination makes for a thoughtful essay on human nature.
Remarkably Hunger was Elise Blackwell's debut novel. She has two more novels published, neither of which I've had the pleasure to read but want to.
Read the Identity Theory interview with Elise Blackwell. Follow the author on Twitter.
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books | fiction | Elise Blackwell | 2003