Ù City of Thieves Û Download by Ô David Benioff City of Thieves is a rare book, one that fires on all cylinders and almost never missteps It s a modern textbook example of how to write a great story Stories often have their strengths and their weaknesses when all is said and done They can rely on character than plot, or vice versa A story might be strong, but pacing is a problem Dialogue might come off unrealistic, although narrative hits the mark In short, most books are a balancing act There are things done right, and things that could have been better Benioff s third offering is balanced well beyond the average book There are no pros and cons, no strengths to rely on The entire work is solid from beginning to end This is a damn near perfect novel and Benioff is a damn near perfect storyteller That s pretty much all you need to know Set in Leningrad during WWII, City of Thieves is a hard look at the best and worst of humanity, often hilarious and harrowing at the same time To say any would be to give it away, but City of Thieves should be required reading for every fan of fiction Darkness and light entwine in these pages, opening your eyes and affecting your heart And although it s fiction, it is based on historical fact Just knowing this type of tale occurred in the real world is enough wind you You ll laugh, you ll gasp, you might even cry This is one book that will play on your mind long after you ve put it down I couldn t recommend it enough This book was one of my 10 books That Stuck With Me piece See what other books stuck with me Growing up in Poland you couldn t escape but be exposed to Polish war movies and dramas The war defined this country and its people, with the country being completely destroyed and around 5,6 million people dead because the Western powers trusted Stalin the country borders also changed, with parts of eastern Poland being ceded to contemporary Ukraine and Lithuania But the rotten top of the cake came when the country fell under the influence of the USSR, and disappeared behind the Iron Curtain for over half a century However, Polish people are stubborn the 1980 Solidarity led to the creation of the Soviet s block first trade union, and the subsequent protests formed a wave of reactions throughout Europe, which eventually led to countries breaking away from the Soviet sphere of influence and gaining independence.
So what did the Polish people do during all these grim years And they were grim all right imagine walking into a store and seeing nothing, literally nothing on its shelves and then going into another one and seeing empty shelves again, and in another one, and another Food stamps were not welfare number of goods one could purchase was limited, with most not being available at all The black market flourished for those who could afford it, but mostly people stood in long queues to buy whatever was available at the moment Everything was scarce image error From The Critically Acclaimed Author Of The Th Hour, A Captivating Novel About War, Courage, Survival And A Remarkable Friendship That Ripples Across A LifetimeDuring The Nazis Brutal Siege Of Leningrad, Lev Beniov Is Arrested For Looting And Thrown Into The Same Cell As A Handsome Deserter Named Kolya Instead Of Being Executed, Lev And Kolya Are Given A Shot At Saving Their Own Lives By Complying With An Outrageous Directive Secure A Dozen Eggs For A Powerful Soviet Colonel To Use In His Daughter S Wedding Cake In A City Cut Off From All Supplies And Suffering Unbelievable Deprivation, Lev And Kolya Embark On A Hunt Through The Dire Lawlessness Of Leningrad And Behind Enemy Lines To Find The ImpossibleBy Turns Insightful And Funny, Thrilling And Terrifying, City of Thieves Is A Gripping, Cinematic World War II Adventure And An Intimate Coming Of Age Story With An Utterly Contemporary Feel For How Boys Become Men This is what happens during war people will do anything to survive from murder to stealing, to going on exhaustive food hunts Absurdly as it sounds, this becomes the cultural norm.
It s the Soviet Union 1942 Tension is thick with famine and war The Germans are beginning their invasion Two soviet thieves, Lev and Kolya are captured and thrown into the same cell However, instead of death, they are given a 4 day reprieve with a mission to find a dozen eggs for a wedding cake for a colonel s daughter This is their mission and the wild egg hunt they go on Trudging through a landscape of death, evading nazis and cannibals, fighting their own fatigue and exhaustion, an unusual friendship begins Well drawn out human characters Lev, Jewish shy and withdrawn paralleling that of Kolya, a mild mannered fellow providing humour on this bleak trek.
From calculated neglect to constipation this a story rich in all elements of character development Writing so palatable and simplistic yet rich in texture, it was a pleasure to read 5 Thank you to my GR friends who pointed this one out as a must read.
A terrific book that proves you don t have to write 700 or 800 pages to have real depth I m fascinated by how Benioff managed to describe the characters enduring terrible hardship and the worst of one of the most brutal battles in history, but the book doesn t read as grim or overly depressing That s not to say that there isn t real drama, horror and sadness, but the natural humor of characters keep it from being just another book about the horrors of war.
You know how annoying it is when a book s ending is so unrealistic that you say to yourself in disgust, This would never play out like this in real life It s happened than once, right But a funny thing sometimes happens on the way to the forum Sometimes your peevishness gets assassinated Sometimes you re so damned entertained by a book that you act like a sailor on leave and say, Ah, what the hell Sometimes you re so amused by the characters that you see that suspension bridge of disbelief and you cross it cheerfully, yet.
This is the case with David Benioff s oddly mesmerizing historical foray, City of Thieves The quixotic quest book offers a little something for everyone Russophiles and history buffs will love it because it s set in Leningrad during the siege, and the author has done his homework, making the setting and background events accurate Coming of age fans will like it because the protagonist, a tough but runty Russian Jew who is only 17, will worm his way into the apple core of your heart Humor enthusiasts will take to it because it is rich with witty badinage, much of it thanks to Kolya, the Red Army sidekick whose libido leads him AWOL and into deep doo doo with the Russian military.
Together, Lev and Kolya are spared death one for breaking curfew, the other for looking for love when he should have been on guard with his unit if they can bring back a certain colonel one dozen eggs Why The colonel s daughter is getting married at the end of the week and needs a huge wedding cake in a city that is about as eggless as a grunting rooster Ridiculous Sure Fun Indubitably But the sights our heroes come across during their journey are anything but laughable and, at times, downright gruesome.
War is hell, yes, but it also offers ironies in spades Ante up, then, because Benioff is dealing You might consider Kolya a tad over the top, and you might agree with me that the showdown with the Germans toward the end stretches things a bit, but what the hell if you re charmed, you re in a good mood and if you re in a good mood, you tend to let certain things go Thus, the suspension of disbelief Thus, the four stars Thus, the hearty recommendation, reservations notwithstanding This one s a page turner This one I think you ll like.
It s all about the quest.
When I read books, I like to do a little research about the author, time period, the book itself, etc I was interested to learn that the creator of the video game, The Last of Us, drew inspiration, in part, from this book.
The Last of Us is a game my son keeps begging me to play It takes place in the near future, has nothing to do with World War II era Leningrad, and from what I ve watched bears no resemblance to the book.
It s all about the quest.
In the book, the quest is to obtain a dozen eggs for a NKVD Colonel, so his daughter can have a wedding cake Leningrad is under siege by the Nazis and people are eating the paste from library books, so finding eggs will take some doing In the games, you generally have an end point too, but you can get sidetracked by doing multiple side quests Examples Mister, can you rescue my puppy He s in a den of necromancers I lost my sword in a cave about 50 years ago It would bring a tear to this old soldier, if you could recover it for me Oh, and it s guarded by 100 zombies They re fast And they wield weapons And they use magic Did I mention there is really powerful zombie when you get to the final room I d do it myself but I m old Thanks again Zeus, bless you There s a den of mutant drug fiends about a mile outside of town If you kill them all, I ll give you a bottle of water, five bottle caps and the whole town will like you You do have options You could say no, punch the asker in the face, or simply walk away with their pathetic pleas ringing in your ears.
There s no straight line from point A to point B in the book either It s never that simple Fortunately, Lev, our intrepid hero, doesn t have to find the eggs by himself Kolya, one of the interesting characters, I ve come across in a while, is in on this errand with him Kolya is the guy that s handsome, funny, charming, and good with his fists and can talk his way into and out of any situation More or less the perfect companion.
In most of the better games you have companions that you can choose from, usually one at a time Companions range from drunks, mages, guys who can transform into werewolves, 7 foot 300 pound mutants who are off their meds, smoking hot vampire warriors, automated trolls and talking dogs The latter is not as cool as it sounds, he won t stop talking barking if you re trying to sneak up on enemies The book doesn t lack for humor, pathos, adventure and excellent characterization It s a timeless tale of summoning one s inner resources and facing down doubt and fear in the most trying of situations But in the end, it s all about the quest.
What a wonderful book and why have I not read it before It reminded me of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas both for its remarkable story and the quality of the writing The book is written as a retelling by the author of his Grandfather s early life, specifically one week in 1942, the first week of the year, the week he met my grandmother, made his best friend and killed two Germans During that week the Grandfather, Lev, was just 17 years old and living in Leningrad which was enduring the Nazi siege of 1942 Various events cause him to meet up with Kolya, a Russian deserter who is only a few years older in years but much in experience Together they set out on a ridiculous quest and witness many of the awful atrocities that occurred during that war.
The characters of Lev and Kolya are what makes this book Kolya is by turns funny and infuriating but is always lovable Their dialogue is frequently hilarious which prevents the story from becoming overwhelmingly sad and horrifying The history was amazing how those poor people survived starvation during the siege I had not come across library candy before The will to live brings about some incredible invention.
A sad, sad ending with a sweet epilogue I have another favourite book
How could you fear anything than death Everything else offered moments of escape a paralyzed man could still read Dickens a man in the grips of dementia might have flashes of the most absurd beauty Lev Beniov wants to live He may not be clear about anything else, but he knows that to be true Life becomes precious when being anywhere, not just in the wrong place, but just existing in space, can turn into a death trap at any moment When his mother and sister fled the city he decided to stay Now he is caught up in one of the worst sieges in the history of the world, he is in Leningrad or as I always think of it St Petersburg Lev is seventeen years old Because it is mostly a city of islands, Leningrad was isolated from the rest of the Soviet Union by the Nazis control or destruction of its bridges.
When I went to Google the siege of Leningrad to brush up on the events that provided the background for this novel I was slightly taken aback when all I had to do was put in SIEGE and BAM there was Leningrad The Germans made the decision, instead of going street by street and house by house, to just starve the citizens and remaining soldiers out of the city They put a ring of soldiers around the perimeter of the city so that no one can come in and no one can come out The staggering results are the deaths of two million Russian soldiers and civilians I was built for deprivation We ve all maybe been a bit hungry, but many of us cocooned in a civilized world where food is plentiful and relatively cheap may not remember the last time we had a hunger pain Lev and the remaining people of Leningrad have went beyond hungry to near starvation People are dying daily because now there is no cushion of calories between them and dying One day without some type of food intake will bethe final day It is almost like a gift from God, if Lev believed in such a person, to see the German paratrooper, frozen to death, drift down from the sky Lev and his friends pounce on the body ransacking pockets finding food, a nice Damascus blade, and a flask of cognac or maybe schnapps how could they know the difference But it spreads a warmth through their bodies like a hot meal or a roaring fire They take too long, a crucial loss of focus Maybe it is the bonanza of food and booze that makes them forget for a moment that they are vulnerable out in the open The soldiers are on them quickly and there is a mad scramble for safety Lev is caught He is shocked they didn t execute him for looting immediately He has seen it happen before He is thrown into a cell and there he meets Kolya who is also in dire trouble He is charged with desertion and they didn t execute him either This isn t a time for trials or due process Shooting someone is just one less mouth to feed The rules are maddeningly unpredictable It is always best to assume the worst Now Kolya didn t desert because he was afraid or because he was homesick He deserted because he was horny He is a tall, good looking guy who is used to having a steady diet of sexual encounters With most of the city too calorie deprived to even think about anything as strenuous as sex, it is still his number one concern His number two concern is in fact, number two He hasn t taken a crap in eleven days The loneliest sound in the world is other people making love As Lev soon finds out.
The reason they are still alive is there is a Colonel who needs a dozen eggs He is throwing a wedding feast for his daughter and they need eggs to bake her wedding cake Kolya and Lev seem like improbable candidates to pull off such an impossible mission They are dead men walking though and the Colonel has offered a pardon if they can bring him back the eggs he needs Need, such an interesting concept when for most of the city twelve eggs represent twelve days with a meal The boys get to see the Colonel s daughter ice skating on the riverIt took me a few seconds to realize why she looked so strange, and then it was obvious even at a distance you could tell that the girl was well fed There was nothing pinched and desperate about her face She had an athlete s casual grace, her pirouettes were tight and fast she never got winded Her thighs must have been magnificent long, pale, and strong and I could feel my prick hardening for the first time in daysRain down on me ladies Peter Paul van Rubens, detail from The Disembarkation at Marseille.
Lev hasn t seen a woman in a long time that he didn t have to mentally add weight to her figure and her face to determine if she used to be pretty I finally fell asleep and dreamed of a sky raining fat girls Their task takes them behind enemy lines where they meet pretty Russian girls kept for the amusement of the Germans, cannibals who have learned that the buttocks make the best steaks, and a female sniper named Vika who Lev falls head over heels in lust withI was raised to be clean and it bothered me when others were not But Vika s wet dog smell did not offend me All of us were slathered in grime by that point, of course I must have stunk like week old fish myself but this wasn t about being inured to foul odors The tang off her body made me want to lick her clean It is such a burden to be virginal sigh I ve lost track of how many days it has been since Kolya took a crap It is somewhere around twenty days He has decided that his bowels are waiting for the end of the siege the siege ended up lasting 872 days He is looking forward to feeling the relief of a VICTORY CRAP.
Despite the stark circumstances that provide the backdrop for this novel there are many moments of unexpected humor that lend brevity to the growing frustrations and dangers in trying to achieve their mission Watching the evolution of the friendship between two very different young men, a Cossack and a Jew, is not only heartwarming, but memorable Lev s father, a relatively famous poet, who was disappeared by the NKVD looms over the story as ghostly as Hamlet s father Lev has the soul of a poet, but lacks the gift to express it Kolya is working steadily each evening, when he hasn t found some woman willing to help him with his continually heated loins, on his novel title The Courtyard Hound I have feeling his writing is spicy It all comes down to a game of chess, but then isn t all of life a game of chess We make sacrifices, pawns, rooks, and bishops, and hope the results prove worthy of what we have given up The longer these two young men are together we can see their minds expanding exponentially just because one is with the other If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at in the aftermath of my tryst with this beautiful, intelligent novel, I was hobbled by lancinating pain stemming from a burning, itching question repeatedly sounding off in my head why didn t I love this book MORE Why I love historical fiction, especially tales set in WW the Sequel, and Benioff s crisp, effortless prose is smart and pleasurable without ever become overly clever or self indulgent The plot device of surreal forced shopping expedition to track down a dozen eggs against the backdrop of the horrific Siege of St Petersburg was a wonderful vehicle to spotlight the everyday struggles of life during the longest and most destructive siege in the history of modern warfare.
All signs point to a love connection So again why wasn t I smitten The only diagnosis I arrived at to explain my muted affection for this novel was that it was too detached an experience The story, while giftedly told, never truly pulled me within its sphere of influence The events encountered by the plot s main characters, Lev and Kolya, despite being well described and at times harrowing, never completely captured me This lack of involuntary engagement in the story left my enjoyment dulled and pretty much doomed me I think being actively vested in the characters and being held captive by the sense of place created by Benioff is vital to a genuine enjoyment of this story For me, sadly, it like seeing photos and video of someone else s exciting vacation rather than experiencing it myself Still, there were flashes of engagement for me that left me breathless and cemented the fact that I would at least like this story The scene with the cannibals had me duct taped to my seat Benioff s talent during this portion was writ large on the marquee as he handled this potentially cartoonish scene so deftly that you just knew he was writing truth I haven t personally researched the level of cannibalism that occurred during the 900 day Siege, but Benioff s depiction of it felt absolutely authentic The mine strapped anti tank dogs lying dead in the snow and the sole survivor found bleeding by the characters was very powerful and I felt ache To be able to evoke such emotion for an animal in the midst of the almost unimaginable suffering taking place all around them was a further display of superb craftsmanship on the author s part The description of the casual, sadistic atrocity perpetrated by the German einsatzkommandos against a Russian peasant girl for trying to escape forced prostitution is seared on my memory Most noteworthy is that Benioff handled it without any melodrama and this understated, just the facts ma am, recounting made it all the chilling The Chess game I loved it I m not going to spoil anything, but I thought this scene was handled wonderfully when it could have derailed easily into Hollywoodness It didn t and so another cap tip to the author In addition to the above, I enjoyed the way Benioff blurred the lines between reality and fiction by using the story within a story framing device The novel is told as the embellished memoir of Benioff s own grandfather detailing his experience during the siege This adds a real sense of authenticity however it was also part and parcel of its downfall for me as it added another layer between me and the events of the story This further heightened my lack of connection to it In the end, I think this is a skilled work by an excellent story teller with real talent for writing The story just never quite clicked for me and I found myself hopelessly undevoted to it I wish that wasn t the case, but it was Thus, the best I can do is 3.
0 stars and to point to all the kudos above so that you will understand why I am still recommending that you give it a shot There is much to like here and hopefully you have a engrossing experience.