The Siege starts with a frontispiece culled from Hitler's secret papers: the 1941 call for the obliteration of Leningrad and all of its inhabits. Dunmore plunges the reader into the lives of Anna, little brother Kolya, and her father Mikhail, a once successful writer whose work has fallen out of favor. Their lives are already in the grip of Stalin's paranoic regime at the novel's start , but as the Germans' blockade cuts the city off from external supports, the questions preoccupying Anna and her father shift as they must focus on survival. Without an ounce of sentimentality, Dunmore paints a world of frigid cold and gut aching hunger. She forces the reader to ponder the questions that haunt Anna: under threat of death, do I choose life or succumb to the passivity of despair? Could I survive with body, mind and humanity intact?