Los Angeles Times “Best Book of 2003”
Sydney Morning Herald “Best Read of The Year”
Hunger was also the inspiration for “When the War Came” by the Decemberists and was adapted for the stage by Chicago’s Lifeline Theatre.
Scouring the world’s most remote fields and valleys, a dedicated Soviet scientist has spent his life collecting rare plants for his country’s premiere botanical institute in Leningrad. From Northern Africa to Afghanistan, from South America to Abyssinia, he has sought and saved seeds that could be traced back to the most ancient civilizations. Even at home with the wife he loves, the memories of his travels return him to the beautiful women and strange foods he has tasted. When German troops surround Leningrad in the fall of 1941, food supplies dwindle and residents eat the bark of trees, barter all they own for flour, and trade sex for food. In the darkest winter hours of the siege, the institute’s scientists make a pact to leave untouched the precious storehouse of seeds that they believe is the country’s future. But such a promise becomes difficult to keep when hunger is grows undeniable. Based on true events from World War II, Hunger is a private story about a man wrestling with his own morality. This beautiful debut novel ask us what is the meaning of integrity
An exquisite little book…Blackwell craftily weaves history and botany through this utterly devour able narrative…A compact embarrassment of riches.
—Los Angeles Times
In Elise Blackwell’s original and engrossing short novel, Leningrad during the German siege forms the background for an exploration of love and betrayal, as well as for some richly sensual evocations of the pleasures of eating.
–J. M. Coetzee, Nobel Laureate
Perfectly judged, beautifully executed…Hunger has been called harrowing, but it is also uplifting.
Spare, searing… A finely angled vision into hell, a spare portrait of the banality of survival.
Insightful and gripping…Hunger examines both the limitations and the possibilities of the human character… Fascinating for its study of how human behavior shifts when faced with the most extreme circumstances and when motivated by fear…Hunger brings human behavior into sharp relief.
—San Francisco Chronicle
An intensely lyrical work.
A brilliant novel of desperation, love and betrayal that packs a punch belying its compact size.
All the more chilling for its poetic economy, Hunger captures a sweeping catastrophe through one man’s tale of belated conscience. It is a haunting reminder that history has no mercy, that no matter how lofty our circumstances or out ideals, we may be tested terribly at any moment by the times in which we live.
–Julia Glass, winner of the National Book Award