Sharon's Reviews > City of Thieves

City of Thieves by David Benioff
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's review
Jan 29, 2009

it was amazing
Read in January, 2009

I was so afraid this book would be unbearably grim. I mean, come on, it's the siege of Leningrad, everyone's starving to death, and it's only 1941--the war will just go on and on. Nazis. Russian winter. Are there any OTHER ingredients for grimness in a book.

But this book strikes the perfect balance of brutality and joy. It's all about Kolya, of course, one of those over-the-top characters who is always doing something nonsensical that works out just fine. I won't say he carries the book, because the other characters are amazing, the story is compelling, and the setting is a character of its own--the great city of Piter--but it's Kolya who can find the fun when it seems silly to do so.

If there is a weak link here, I would say it is the women--some books, some male authors, I've noticed, see women as mystical entities, graceful and powerful and all-knowing and self-contained. I wouldn't say this book suffers from this factor, but it's something I noticed--the women are all, in their own ways, flawless.

I really loved this book, and I'm glad the ALA gave it an Alex Award this year, and I'm glad someone picked it for my online book group so I'd pick up something (Nazis? Russian winter?) that I might otherwise never have discovered.
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Jack I am in the middle of loving this book right now and was scouring Goodreads for other people's reviews and was struck by something you said in yours, about the women being flawless. I think that you're right, that this is a trap that male authors sometimes fall into, but with this book I think it's important to remember who the narrator is: a teenage boy who has had almost no experience with women! Of course all the women are perfect to him! They're ethereal, unattainable, and mesmerizing and he wants nothing more than to have some fleeting interaction with them, to be noticed by them. From that perspective -- and especially when the women he meets are his only distraction from the cold, hunger, and death all around him -- is it any wonder he sees every girl he briefly encounters as flawless?

Just a thought.

Sharon Vika the sniper was flawless? The woman who had corpses hanging on meat hooks in her apartment was flawless?

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