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City of Thieves: A Novel

1 rating: 5.0
A book by David Benioff

Starred Review. Author and screenwriter Benioff follows upThe 25th Hourwith this hard-to-put-down novel based on his grandfather's stories about surviving WWII in Russia. Having elected to stay in Leningrad during the siege, 17-year-old Lev Beniov is … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: David Benioff
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Plume
1 review about City of Thieves: A Novel

A Narrative Masterpiece

  • Oct 16, 2009
Rating:
+5
The city of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) survived one of the longest and most devastating sieges in history. During World War II it was besieged by German forces for 900 grueling days. The fact that this city managed to survive the onslaught of German Wehrmacht is the testament to the resilience and spirit of its citizens. The story of "The City of Thieves" focuses on one extraordinary episode in the lives of two young protagonists, seventeen year old Lev and his unlikely friend Kolya who were given a task of finding a dozen eggs for the wedding cake of the daughter of NKVD general. In a city that has not seen any fresh food supplies in months, this turns out to be a highly nontrivial task. Their adventures turn out to be extremely dangerous and increasingly daring, and the reader is continuously held tight in the grips of very exciting and poignant narrative. The story is based on actual events, and at the start of the book we have been told that Lev is no one else but the author's own grandfather, now living in the US. The original story apparently had many gaps and inconsistencies, so the author has taken a healthy dose of artistic freedom and woven the event into a tight and compelling narrative. The fictionalized story is told so masterfully that we never for once stop to wonder how much of it is actually true. All of it has more than a solid ring of plausibility to it, and the reader is transported into 1940s Russia. Although the story has many bleak and frightening moments, there is also a strong dose of basic optimism about life and the world that pervades it throughout. One of the things that really impressed me was the skillfully constructed narratives that had a very convincing ring to them. The words and thought of characters really felt like they were translated into English directly from Russian. Once I started reading the book, it was impossible for me to put it down. I stayed up one night well after the midnight in order to finish reading it. In the light of that, I would strongly recommend that you set aside a significant amount of time before you venture to read this book.

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