5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of the human condition through story
A wonderfully well written story that sucks you in and keeps you enamoured until the very end! Loved it and would recommend to all who love a great story and will appreciate the fine art of character the writer manages to evoke.
Published 3 months ago by Alessandra
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good balance of comedy and tragedy
This book has all the makings of a coming of age historical foreign movie (makes sense, the author is also a screenwriter). I can actually picture the movie in my head and watching it. It's something I would watch. It's both funny yet certain parts remind me of the horrors of war still thriving within the city. The story is told in the point of view of Lev who's young and...
Published on Nov 12 2009 by Karoline
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of the human condition through story,
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This review is from: City of Thieves: A Novel (Paperback)A wonderfully well written story that sucks you in and keeps you enamoured until the very end! Loved it and would recommend to all who love a great story and will appreciate the fine art of character the writer manages to evoke.
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining,
This review is from: City of Thieves: A Novel (Paperback)I was hesitant when I first picked up City of Thieves for the simple reason that I don’t read a lot of historical fiction. But because I am such a fan of Benioff and his effortless ability to make you engage with any sort of character I had to try. I was not disappointed. Pardon the overused cliche, but this book had everything a great story should have. One page your laughing and the next you are in shock. This is a coming of age story but because it is rooted in history it offers a unique perspective on the conditions of that time. I found myself at the end of the story feeling very lucky for the freedoms and lifestyle I was born into. The characters in the book are fighting for survival at every turn. Benioff makes the cold of Leningrad come off the page and into your bones. City of Thieves, as only Benioff can, makes the reader consider their own morals. You find yourself thinking would I have what it takes to survive such situations. In many cases the average citizen can only reply ‘no’ but the consideration and imagination that goes into projecting yourself makes the book constantly entertaining. Please check out my first published work Defenseless
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pitr and the Siege,
This review is from: City of Thieves: A Novel (Paperback)From September 1941 to January 1944 the armies of Nazi Germany surrounded St Petersburg (then known as Leningrad) and subjected the city to a cruel bombardment. Over a million Russians died during the siege, most of those from starvation in the first winter. All food stocks were consumed, as were pets, glue in the binding of books and even mud. Instances of cannibalism were widespread. Where then could one find a dozen eggs for a wedding cake? That is the dilemma facing two deserters: return with the eggs for the daughter of a secret police colonel or be executed. David Benioff's "City of Thieves" is a tale of horror, comradeship, humour and adventure. Highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Narrative Masterpiece,
This review is from: City Of Thieves (Hardcover)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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Could not put it down,
This review is from: City of Thieves: A Novel (Paperback)Do you remember those books which you picked up one morning and started to read and you could not put it down. you cancelled your lunch meeting, rearranged your schedule because you had to finish this book. I could not put this down. It is an easy read, detailed yet light, funny yet tragic, familiar yet new. A must read. A hidden classic.
Ok it has been done before, a modern day holden caulfield and his cast of friends and acquintances, but in war torn St. Petersburg. Starvation, death, friendship, cold, love, and yes there are eggs.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Real Page Turner,
This review is from: City of Thieves: A Novel (Paperback)I really enjoyed this book and got through it very quickly, partially due to its short length (relative to the very lengthly Shantaram which I read before it), but especially because I couldn't wait to see what happened next. I tend to like to read books that teach me a little culture/history as a backdrop but that have a great story as well. City of Thieves didn't disappoint. The author balanced sadness with humour quite well, though it does turn out to be pretty dark humour much of the time as a result.
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best books,
This review is from: City of Thieves: A Novel (Paperback)A good read.I could not put it down.It is so hard to find a book as this one.It describs the human nature in such an entertaining maner.While it is an easy read it is very meaningful.
5.0 out of 5 stars FANTASTIC COMING OF AGE STORY DURING THE SEIGE OF LENINGRAD,
This review is from: City of Thieves: A Novel (Paperback)I came away from this feeling very cold, very hungry and with an inexplicable need to make sure my pantry was full. CITY OF THIEVES is a fantastic story; set in 1942 during the Nazis' brutal siege of Leningrad. It's a coming of age story filled with adventure, suspense, friendship, romance and tragedy all washed down with (from what I understand) a historically accurate picture of Leningrad during the blockade.
I should point out that despite the events of the time this is also a surprisingly funny read as our two main characters; Kolya the romantic optimist and Lev with his random internal observations both have an interesting way of looking at life around them during the absurdities of war.
The story begins with a powerful opening chapter; a writer asks his grandfather to tell him about his experiences during the war. All the narrator knows-and he doesn't remember anyone telling him its just one of those family folklores that he always has. Is that his grandfather, "the knife fighter" killed two Germans before he was eighteen and is missing a finger. And so Lev begins to tell his story to his grandson. Talking openly for the first time about his childhood, coming to America and sex. Mostly though he talks about a two week period in 1942 when he met his best friend, the woman that would become his wife and killed two Germans. I actually referred back to this chapter several times during the course of the book and again when I finished.
Its January 1942 Leningrad is under marshal law, surrounded by the German army and what's left of its inhabitants are starving. Our hero 17 year old Lev Beniov has just been arrested for looting and placed in a cell with a handsome friendly deserter named Kolya Vlasov. Both of their crimes are grounds for execution and as our heroes get to know each other that's what they expect come morning. However in a twist of fate they are given a chance to save their own lives, a secret mission for a powerful soviet colonel. All they have to do is find a dozen eggs for his daughter's wedding cake.
A dozen eggs in a city cut off from supplies, a city resorting to cannibalism and eating glue from book spines to survive. It is of course a ludicrous and impossible task one which takes our new friends far into German occupied territory, through the bitter cold of winter and countless adventures and atrocities. The outcome didn't really surprise me but I haven't stopped thinking about it either.
"One moment I thought I had a few minutes left to live; the next a sniper was flirting with me. Was she flirting with me? The days had become a confusion of catastrophes; what seemed impossible in the afternoon was blunt fact by the evening. German corpses fell from the sky; cannibals sold sausage links made from ground human in the Haymarket; apartments blocs collapsed to the ground; dogs became bombs; frozen soldiers became sign posts. I had no food in my belly, no fat on my bones and no energy to reflect on this parade of atrocities. I just kept moving, hoping to find another half slice of bread for myself and a dozen eggs for the colonel's daughter."
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just right.,
This review is from: City Of Thieves (Hardcover)The story of two unlikely friends trying to survive during the Siege of Leningrad, it is creative and wildly entertaining while illuminating the horrors of a part of WWII that I knew little about. Benioff writes with the heart of a poet and produces a great tale.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good balance of comedy and tragedy,
This review is from: City of Thieves: A Novel (Paperback)This book has all the makings of a coming of age historical foreign movie (makes sense, the author is also a screenwriter). I can actually picture the movie in my head and watching it. It's something I would watch. It's both funny yet certain parts remind me of the horrors of war still thriving within the city. The story is told in the point of view of Lev who's young and stays behind while his mother and sister move away from the city. His father, is most likely dead, as he gets arrested and is never seen again. When he meets Kolya, the charming deserter who seems to have a tale for everything and has to say something every waking moment, they make a comical duo. Lev is very surly at first and is annoyed frequently by Kolya, who doesn't really care what he thinks of him and keeps on going with his little quirks and stories of his various romantic conquests and how he hasn't gone to the bathroom in a very long time.
I liked this book because of its' interesting mix of comedy and drama set in a rather serious and sombre setting. Come to think of it, I haven't even read a book set in World War II where there is comedy in it. In fact I think it's quite a rarity, yet this kind of rarity, and written and executed well, makes it a rare gem. I have to admit, I liked Kolya from the start. You could tell he was the comic relief of the duo here. He provided the light hearted side of the story and actually had very funny and interesting things to say. It was hard to like Lev. I don't know what to make of him. Surly, hard to like, easily angered (really all the makings of an angsty teenager) although on the other hand, he knew how to survive on the streets which had made him mature faster while Kolya was more of the child of this twosome. However towards the end of the book where Lev actually does grow up both mentally and physically, I started to rather respect him more as his character developed.
As you read through their journey, you start to see their relationship develop and it becomes even brotherly, as Lev asks Kolya for some tips when it comes to romancing the ladies (and other "sports"). Although Lev sort of begrudgingly and even is embarassed by asking him, Kolya acts like a father figure, an elder brother, and a personal friend to Lev (although sometimes it's more like an annoying friend you never asked for) which makes the relationship funny, but also at the same time, very personal because of the various events they went through both life threatening and yet comical. Believe me, those comical parts actually had me laughing out loud at times, the dramatic parts are just that and there's a good balance between the two so you won't be bored reading this novel.
The things I didn't like about this book? well for starters, there were some very graphic and gruesome parts that aren't for the squeamish and some parts even made me squirm uncomfortably. Lev rather annoyed me because he wouldn't stop thinking as how Vika would look naked (and those moments increased towards the end of the book) it got annoying and stagnant. One other criticism, what happened to Kolya was rather predictable in the end. I figured that out at least before halfway of the novel. (Which is why I said it had all the makings of a great foreign movie).
Despite these faults, I enjoyed reading the book and following these two on their dangerous journey to find eggs. The whole finding eggs bit does make it comical but on the other hand it's mixed so well with the horrors of war that you're left being reminded that it's still there, but that it's okay to sometimes laugh once in a while even when the situation is very bleak. Besides, you have nothing to lose when you're starving, and you're always reminded of death everywhere you turn. Overall a good read if you can get past the graphic parts.
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City of Thieves: A Novel by David Benioff (Paperback - Mar 31 2009)
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