“Siege 13” and “Memory Wall” Review

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing two short story collections! They are “Siege 13” by Tamas Dobozy and “Memory Wall” by Anthony Doerr.

Siege 13

Here’s the summary for this as shown on goodreads:

“In December of 1944, the Red Army entered Budapest to begin one of the bloodiest sieges of the Second World War. By February, the siege was over, but its effects were to be felt for decades afterward.

Siege 13 is a collection of thirteen linked stories about this terrible time in history, both its historical moment, but also later, as a legacy of silence, haunting, and trauma that shadows the survivors. Set in both Budapest before and after the siege, and in the present day – in Canada, the U.S., and parts of Europe – Siege 13 traces the ripple effect of this time on characters directly involved, and on their friends, associates, sons, daughters, grandchildren, and adoptive countries.

Written by one of this country’s best and most internationally recognized short story authors – the story “The Restoration of the Villa Where Tibor Kallman Once Lived” won the 2011 O. Henry Prize for short fiction – Siege 13 is an intelligent, emotional, and absorbing cycle of stories about war, family, loyalty, love and redemption.”

I really enjoyed reading “Siege 13” due to the engaging writing style of the short stories. I especially enjoyed the stories “Rosewood Queens,” “The Society of Friends” and “The Ghosts of Budapest and Toronto.” All of them had such interesting characters to drive the plot, rather than the plot driving the characters.

Unfortunately, many of the short stories were very sad. Let me correct that—all of the short stories were sad. This surprised me so much, because when I usually read short story collections, they have a variety of moods to them. However, Dobozy appears to write all these short stories framed in situations that are sad, stay sad, and sometimes the situations in the story gets worse as they progress. I would have liked to see more variety of the moods being set in the short stories, such as one short story starting sad and staying sad, but then the next one is much more hopeful and happy. However, the stories are quite character-driven in how the plot progresses, and that was nice to read.

Overall, 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Memory Wall

“Set on four continents, Anthony Doerr’s collection of stories is about memory: the source of meaning and coherence in our lives, the fragile thread that connects us to ourselves and to others.

In the luminous and beautiful title story, a young boy in South Africa comes to possess an old woman’s secret, a piece of the past with the power to redeem a life. In ‘The River Nemunas’, a teenaged orphan moves from Kansas to Lithuania to live with her grandfather, and discovers a world in which myth becomes real. ‘Village 113’ is about the building of the Three Gorges Dam and the seedkeeper who guards the history of a village soon to be submerged. And in ‘Afterworld,’ the radiant, cathartic final story, a woman who escaped the Holocaust is haunted by visions of her childhood friends in Germany, yet finds solace in the tender ministrations of her grandson.

The stories in Memory Wall show us how we figure the world, and show Anthony Doerr to be one of the masters of the form.”

The titular story “Memory Wall,” out of all the short stories in the collection, was my favourite in the collection. It’s hard for me to describe why—it’s one of those types of stories where you have to read it yourself in order to understand why people like it. The writing style for this story, as well as the others, was a bit slow-paced at times, but not too horrifically slow.

I also liked the more varied genres in this collection compared to “Siege 13.” Some stories, like Memory Wall, bordered slightly towards sci-fi, while other stories are more historical and grounded in the history surrounding them. I also thought the tones of the stories were all not purely sad and progressively making the situation worse all the time like “Siege 13” did.

Going back to how I mentioned the writing style for this story being slow, though it didn’t drag “Memory Wall” down, I feel like it made the stories almost too slow for some of the other stories in the collection. This made them feel incredibly long to read, despite them all being short stories, though I wonder if it was on purpose to bring out the details each story has that makes them special.

Overall, I’m rating this collection 3.75 out of 5 stars.

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