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.
City of Thieves
My grandfather, the knife fighter, killed two Germans before he was eighteen. I don't remember anyone telling meit was something I always seemed to know, the way I knew the Yankees wore pinstripes for home games and gray for the road. But I wasn't born with the knowledge. Who told me? Not my father, who never shared secrets, or my mother, who shied away from mentioning the unpleasant, all things bloody, cancerous, or deformed. Not my grandmother, who knew every folktale from the old countrymost of them gruesome; children devoured by wolves and beheaded by witchesbut never spoke about the war in my hearing. And certainly not my grandfather himself, the smiling watchman of my earliest memories, the quiet, black-eyed, slender man who held my hand as we crossed the avenues, who sat on a park bench reading his Russian newspaper while I chased pigeons and harassed sugar ants with broken twigs.
I grew up two blocks from my grandparents and saw ...
City of Thieves reads like a novelized "buddy movie" (think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Thelma and Louise). Although engaging, City of Thieves does not contain great emotional depths. Horrific events are reported - the reader observes, but does not relate. In this, especially, Benioff's background as a screenwriter is evident.
Movies are primarily visual affairs, and Benioff's writing focuses on what is seen, not what is felt. Some writers manage to convey everything about an experience down to the smells of a place; Benioff's descriptions are more or less limited to what's observable ....In spite of its flaws, City of Thieves is one of the most entertaining
novels I have read in recent months. Its fast pace and believable characters will appeal to a wide range of readers, and it's an ideal choice for those looking for a high-quality page-turner.
(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Full Review (1238 words).
The Siege of Leningrad (September 1941 - January
1944) was one of the longest and most destructive in modern
history - spanning 900 days and four Russian winters. Though
the actual civilian death toll can never be known it is
estimated that well over 600,000 of the approximate 3
million population died, with some estimating the death toll
as high as 1.5 million. About 80% died of starvation.
When the siege began, the city had approximately 30 days' worth of food on-hand. Rationing began almost immediately, but Leningrad's citizens weren't informed how low supplies truly were, presumably to keep them from panicking. Restaurants continued operating as ...
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