When I launched the books section on this blog, the idea was to write a review as soon as I finished reading a book. In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t just finish reading City of Thieves. I read it six years ago if not before (it was published in 2008), but it’s a book that has always stayed with me.
Recently, I gave a friend of mine, who is an avid reader, two books for his birthday, one of them was City of Thieves. This reminded me of how much I enjoyed reading the book, and as I’m always searching for good reads, I decided to search for other works by the same author. In case you’re wondering, Station Eleven was the other book I gave my friend, although I have not yet read it.
After a very quick Google search (how I love technology), I discovered that City of Thieves was written by David Benioff, who you might or might not know is married to Amanda Peet. I was also surprised to discover that. Peet is an actress whom I love to watch. Unfortunately, she’s underworked and underrated. However, you might know him better as the co-creator and showrunner of the hugely popular Game of Thrones (a TV show that I half-watch as I try to skip all the gore). By the way, this half-watching practice does not stop me from recognizing the greatness of this series along everyone else who fully watches.
But enough talk about Game of Thrones, and its author. Let’s turn to City of Thieves. Set in 1941 during the German siege of Leningrad, it is the story of Lev, a 17-year old Jewish boy caught looting a dead German’s soldier corpse, and Kolya, a Russian army deserter. Their punishment is execution. Instead, they are tasked with finding 12 eggs for the wedding cake of a colonel’s daughter.
This is an impossible task, but Lev and Kolya have no other choice if they want to stay alive. The book is filled with anecdotes of their “adventures” in the search for eggs, that is if meeting up with cannibals and Nazi death squads can be classified as such.
I don’t have a clear recollection of passages in the book since I read it so long ago. But, I remember marveling at the combination of utter devastation, humor, and hope that Benioff was able to pull off so brilliantly. Lev and Kolya are two of the best drawn characters in literature and City of Thieves is one of the best novels that I have ever read. For a more detailed review of the book, see Wartime Rations, by Boris Fishman of The New York Times Sunday Book Review.
City of Thieves has 4.6/5 stars in Amazon from 1003 reviews. Read it if you’re influenced by this, or if you like WWII historical fiction, or buddy stories. Read it because you like Game of Thrones, or David Benioff, or Amanda Peet.
Or, read it because I’m telling you to. In any case, there’s a big chance that City of Thieves will steal your heart.