Review - City of Thieves

City of Thieves City of Thieves by David Benioff

From Goodreads:

As wise and funny as it is thrilling and original, the story of two young men on an impossible adventure

A writer visits his retired grandparents in Florida to document their experience during the infamous siege of Leningrad. His grandmother won't talk about it, but his grandfather reluctantly consents. The result is the captivating odyssey of two young men trying to survive against desperate odds.

Lev Beniov considers himself "built for deprivation". He's small, smart, and insecure, a Jewish virgin too young for the army, who spends his nights working as a volunteer firefighter with friends from his building. When a dead German paratrooper lands in his street, Lev is caught looting the body and dragged to jail, fearing for his life. He shares his cell with the charismatic and grandiose Kolya, a handsome young soldier arrested on desertion charges. Instead of the standard bullet in the back of the head, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful colonel to use in his daughter's wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt to find the impossible. A search that takes them through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and the devastated surrounding countryside creates an unlikely bond between this earnest, lust-filled teenager and an endearing lothario with the gifts of a conman. Set within the monumental events of history, City of Thieves is an intimate coming-of-age tale with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.

May 15th 2008 by Viking Adult

Hardcover, 258 pages
literary awards
0670018708    (isbn13: 9780670018703)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this book. I was hooked from the very beginning, and devoured the entire work in two sittings. Author David Benioff takes us on a most peculiar journey with two very likable young men, set against the backdrop of the horrors of WWII and the siege of Leningrad. I found his writing to be beautifully lyrical and his characters well developed and believable. The use of profanity and crude descriptions may well turn many a reader off, but for me {in spite of the fact that I don't necessarily enjoy it} it lent an air of honesty and authenticity to the entire story.

This book took me on my own journey of emotional responses, running the gamut of laughter, horror, fear, suspense, surprise and more. It is definitely not a story for the faint of heart, but then, neither are the experiences of war and growing up.

All in all, one of my favorite reads this year.

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  1. It's funny because I generally like reading war stories, but the summary of the search for a dozen eggs seemed kind of like a contrived storyline. Then I saw your review and the mention of the Alex Award, and now I'm thinking it might be one I'd actually want to read.

  2. Have you read The 25th Hour? I thought that was a great book, too.