Buggy's Reviews > City of Thieves

City of Thieves by David Benioff
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's review
Dec 22, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, historical, love-story, shelf-11, war, survival
Read from June 24 to July 19, 2011

Opening Line:"My grandfather, the knife fighter, killed two Germans before he was eighteen."

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.”
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Quotes Buggy Liked

David Benioff
“I've always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed.”
David Benioff, City of Thieves

Reading Progress

06/28/2011 page 150
58.0% 2 comments
04/04/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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message 1: by MelissaB (new) - added it

MelissaB Nice review Buggy! A friend recommended this to me awhile ago so it's been sitting on my Kindle. Sounds interesting! I liked the movie Enemy at the Gates, the setting reminds me of that.

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) This sounds really good, Buggy!

Buggy Thanks Melissa and Lady D. :)
This was a great story, I don't know that I would compare it to Enemy At The Gates, same setting but this is much lighter and more a coming of age story. (I'm trying to remember the movie now?)

message 4: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline I dnfed this one about halfway through. I just got tired of it one day and never picked it up again. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood then to be quite so depressed. I know a lot of people really liked it. Good review though.

Buggy Thanks Jacqueline. Sorry you didn't finish it :(
I didn't find it depressing, sure its tough subject matter but its just such an adventure and the two heroes have an amusing way of looking at life

UniquelyMoi ~ BlithelyBookish This sounds like something my husband would love. He's all over the Bronze Horseman books.

Buggy Thanks Unique D, It was a great read. I've yet to read the Bronze Horseman series but I think I would love it

I hope summer is treating you well girl.

UniquelyMoi ~ BlithelyBookish It's been a busy week or so. My mom had a couple of small strokes and we've been running around. I'm trying to immerse myself in books to help keep my mind occupied on something other than worry.

message 9: by Buggy (last edited Aug 04, 2011 05:39PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Buggy I'm so sorry for your Mum and your worry. Thats tough! :(

Its hard to read when you have life stress, the mind tends to wander. I recommend books that don't require took much thinking for you right now(and possibly a lot of sex.)
Chin up girl, I'll be thinking of you

message 10: by MelissaB (new) - added it

MelissaB UniquelyMoi *~*Dhestiny*~* wrote: "It's been a busy week or so. My mom had a couple of small strokes and we've been running around. I'm trying to immerse myself in books to help keep my mind occupied on something other than worry."

So sorry to hear that UM, hope she (and you) are doing okay.

UniquelyMoi ~ BlithelyBookish Thanks, Melissa!

message 12: by Tfitoby (new)

Tfitoby Thanks for the review. It helped me to recommend a copy in my shop.

Buggy You're welcome Tfitoby, I really enjoyed this

Steamywindows♥♫ Great review Buggy.

Buggy Thanks so much Steamy!

message 16: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Huffaker Great review! You must read the Bronze Horseman Trilogy, at lest the first two. Great history with a great romance thrown in. One of my all time favorites!

Buggy Thanks Lisa I have The Bronze Horseman and keep meaning to get to it but I'm daunted by the size of it.

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