Monday, April 9, 2012

City of Thieves

Over spring break, I read more graphic novels than books, but I did finish City of Thieves, by David Benioff. My co-worker Luke recommended it. Apparently he loved it so much that for one Christmas, he gave it to a bunch of friends and family members. Turned out I had it on my kindle anyway after borrowing it from a friend.

David Benioff, it turns out, is married to the actress Amanda Peet and more importantly, he is the show runner of HBO's Game of Thrones. So clearly I was hooked from the beginning.

City of Thieves starts with a fictional author, David Benioff, interviewing his grandfather about his experiences during World War II in Russia. At the end of the conversation the author tries to ask some follow up questions, but his grandfather simply says, "you're a writer, make it up." So it's unclear how much of the book is actually true.

The main character is Lev Beniov, who is seventeen years old during the German attempt to invade Russia. It's 1942, in Leningrad, during the winter. Lev's father is dead and his mother fled the city before the German siege with his sister, so essentially he's alone, with a couple friends, in the apartment building where he grew up. One night, they spot a parachuting German soldier landing on the street. Turns out the man is dead, but Lev is caught looting the man's body and is brought to a prison, where he meets Kolya, an apparent deserter from the Russian army.

The two men are brought before a Russian military leader who promises to let them go free (with ration cards) if they simply find him a dozen eggs for his daughter's wedding cake. What follows is a thrilling, heartbreaking and funny story. Lev and Kolya trek outside the city and come across a variety of different adventures, mostly tragic, and people, from cannibals to courtesans in their search for the eggs. Lev is shy, while Kolya is brash - a confident ladies' man. They form a tight bond over the course of the novel as they try desperately to win their freedom.

The story has a sad ending initially but then a lovely postscript. It's a great book - "funny, sad and thrilling", as the article below puts it. I highly recommend it!

Entertainment Weekly did a great article when the book first came out in 2008. 

Buy City of Thieves at and

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