Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

City of Thieves by David Benioff (and a tardy slip)

Tardy Slip:  Please excuse Sarah for not posting a review last Thursday or yesterday.  Last Thursday she was still hovering on Death's door with strep throat and attempting to care for her healthy 13 month-old and her strep-stricken 3 year-old while her husband is vacationing in an exotic locale (or something like that).  Then there was Easter.  On Monday, Blogger would not allow her to actually write AND save/post. 
Signed:  All Things Conspiring Against Her

The Review:
I so want this story to be true. In the interest of full-disclosure, I have a weird thing about Russian history and, of course, World War II (explains the choice of history as an undergrad major) so I was predisposed to like this book. It's labeled Historical Fiction, but in my mind this is a true story of chaos, hunger, desperation, pride, love, and war.  And if that doesn't interest you, you should know this is a story about eggs.  Interested yet?  You should be.  I loved this book.

The book's preface makes it seem as if this is the author's grandfather's tale of living in Leningrad during the German WW II siege on the city.  I don't know how true that is, but I want it to be.  The main characters, Kolya and Lev, are brought together on a quest to find eggs for a colonel's daughter's wedding, as a way for them to avoid desertion charges.  It's with these two contrasting souls (one too young to know any better than the moment in front of him and the other an intellect and romantic caught in a time of war) that the reader experiences a decimated city and outlying Russian villages while on the hunt for eggs.  Their journey shows how low a city, an army, and a people can be in these circumstances, yet still find order and comfort in the most ordinary of things. 

Perhaps what I liked best about the story was, though it was the grandfather's voice and story, it was more about the author's (at least the author in the preface) grandmother.  Though there is love there, don't expect the stuff of romance novels, as the story does an excellent job illuminating the odd ways of love and romance in war.  After all, what says "romance" more than "I won't tell the Germans you're actually a girl."?  This is a story that can only be true during war, and probably only true during war in a frozen Russia - when truth is harder to understand than the greatest of lies.  It's not for the faint of heart (there are even cannibals) but it's worth it.

From Publishers Weekly

Author and screenwriter Benioff follows up The 25th Hour with this hard-to-put-down novel based on his grandfather's stories about surviving WWII in Russia. Having elected to stay in Leningrad during the siege, 17-year-old Lev Beniov is caught looting a German paratrooper's corpse. The penalty for this infraction (and many others) is execution. But when Colonel Grechko confronts Lev and Kolya, a Russian army deserter also facing execution, he spares them on the condition that they acquire a dozen eggs for the colonel's daughter's wedding cake. Their mission exposes them to the most ghoulish acts of the starved populace and takes them behind enemy lines to the Russian countryside. There, Lev and Kolya take on an even more daring objective: to kill the commander of the local occupying German forces. A wry and sympathetic observer of the devastation around him, Lev is an engaging and self-deprecating narrator who finds unexpected reserves of courage at the crucial moment and forms an unlikely friendship with Kolya, a flamboyant ladies' man who is coolly reckless in the face of danger. Benioff blends tense adventure, a bittersweet coming-of-age and an oddly touching buddy narrative to craft a smart crowd-pleaser. (May)
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  1. And how special is it that your favorite thing about it was the grandmother? What about the people that don't have grandmothers (especially awesome ones like yours) in their lives? They might totally miss that aspect of the novel. Grandmas are the best.

  2. Just finished City of Thieves. Wonderful novel. I'd love to see it made into a film but I know they'd ruin it.