Friday, January 8, 2016

City of Thieves

by David Benioff
254 pgs

Lev Beniov is a Jewish teenager who lives alone near Leningrad during the Nazi siege of the city in World War II. His father recently disappeared--taken away by Stalin's secret police--and both his mother and sister fled the city to escape the constant bombing.

One night Lev and a couple others from his apartment building come across the body of a German pilot who appears to have frozen to death after ejecting from his plane during the night. As they search for valuables on the body, they're discovered by officers of the same police force that took Lev's father away. Lev is the only one who isn't able to get away, and is arrested and thrown into a pitch-black prison cell. There he meets Kolya Vlasov, a young Russian soldier who was arrested for desertion.

The next morning, both Lev and Koyla are given a chance to regain their freedom and avoid execution. They are brought before Colonel Grechko, who informs them that his daughter's wedding is five days away, and he needs a dozen eggs for the wedding cake. Normally, the task of locating a dozen eggs wouldn't be a problem, but the Nazi's blockade has brought those living in Leningrad to a state of near starvation. There's not a single egg, or for that matter, live chicken, left in the city. Lev and Koyla have a near-impossible task to perform, and only five days in which to do it.

It's obvious that a lot of research went into writing this book. David Benioff does a fantastic job of providing a sense of what the citizens of Leningrad went through, and how they survived during that period of the war in which the Nazis tried unsuccessfully to occupy it. Benioff uses the opening chapter to position the book as a grandfather's story being recounted to his grandson, a young writer named David; leading the reader to believe that the story is true and it's the author's own grandfather who lived it. Whether that's the case or not is immaterial, but it successfully adds a level of believability to the story and makes the characters that much more endearing.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and especially appreciated the black humor Benioff interspersed throughout it. It nicely balanced out the severe circumstances and extreme hardships Lev, Koyla, and those whose paths they cross are subjected to.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

No comments:

Post a Comment