Set in 1941 in Leningrad, Helen Dunmore’s novel The Siege opens with deceptively gentle scenes of Chekhovian melancholy. After the death of her mother, 23-year-old Anna Levin, the protagonist, gives up her artistic studies to look after her 5-yearold brother and her politically suspect father Abraham, who, as a writer, has fallen out of favour with Stalin’s cultural police. So she jumps at the chance to make a drawing of the retired actress Marina Petrovna, with whom Anna’s father might once have had a romantic relationship. But Anna’s worries about art and romance are soon swept away as the Germans besiege her native city. At this point, Dunmore’s novel transforms abruptly as well, shifting from a romantic narrative into a study of survival under most extreme hardships. Anna’s abundant artistic creativity is put to use providing food and fuel for her helpless family, and her drawing skills are called on to sketch a neighbour’s starved baby so that the grieving mother might remember her lost child. Indeed, the novel presents a striking contrast between the gentle display of human emotions and the rude dictates of survival under the most inhuman circumstances.
It is emphasized in the passage that the novel ----.
A) never loses its romantic tone, even though some of the scenes described can be very depressing and upsetting
B) shows how Helen Dunmore differs from the Russian writer Chekhov in her detailed portrayal of characters
C) is not only a narrative of romantic scenes, but also the depiction of a cruel reality in which human survival was almost impossible
D) primarily focuses on the complexity of human emotions and tries to demonstrate this through the depiction of a wide range of characters
E) is embedded with a number of inconsistencies as regards style and characterization, which make Dunmore’s literary creativity rather superficial
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