I finished City of Thieves by David Benioff on Monday and I loved it. Glad I didn’t just shove this in the “everybody’s read it already so why bother” pile. Well, I did for a while, but it’s my bookclub pick for this month so I dug it out. And it fits one of my current reading challenge tasks, I’ll have you know that David Benioff and I are both 7’s, according to some numerology website.
City of Thieves has terrific characters. Lev Beniov is a 17 year old who has stayed in Leningrad during the WWII siege. Too young to join the army, he serves as a firefighter for his apartment building. He is arrested one night for looting a german paratrooper who has fallen dead from the sky. In his prison cell, he meets Kolya, a young russian soldier accused of being a deserter. Together they are promised their freedom if they can secure a dozen fresh eggs for a powerful russian colonel. So the boy-becoming-a-man and the studuent of literature who dreams of being a writer set off behind enemy lines on their quest.
This book grabbed me immediately with a great set up chapter set in the present. Then the characters charmed me. The writing was great, not because it stood out – I didn’t stop and notice great passages, but because it all just flowed so comfortably that it never got in the way of the story. And the story was compelling. A great blend of historical fiction, the horrors and absurdity of war, humanity, and humor. It reminded me of SlaughterHouse5, but without the Vonnegut wierdness, and of Catch-22, but with a little more, I don’t know, literary polish might be a good way to put it. Or maybe just more accessable to the average reader. I’m anxious to hear what the rest of my bookclub thinks. I’d give this one a 3 G recommendation – across genders and generations and genres.