Book Reviews: City of Thieves

Thursday, December 30, 2010


The City of Thieves
By David Benioff
★★★★☆

I tend to love books that deal with WWII. There are so many different amazing stories to tell about people at their best and worst that take place during that awful war. Despite that, I’ve read very little about WWII in Russia, so I was excited to read this book.

Lev, the narrator, is a young naive man, is paired up with the worldly-wise Kolya when both men face disciplinary action in the army. They are assigned the odd task of finding a dozen eggs for a superior officer's daughter's wedding cake. Their adventure forces them to cross paths with some vicious people. Lev is forced to grow up quickly as he copes with all that he sees.

The plot and style of writing reminded me of the film Inglorious Bastards. There’s a good story there but you have to wade through some violence and crass language to get to it. It’s definitely targeted at a male audience with frequent references to sex, defecating, etc., and though I could have done with less of that, it’s still a great story.

This is definitely not a book for the faint of heart. Leningrad was no picnic during the Siege and Lev must face some heinous situations. Yet Benioff doesn’t dwell on the violence, he uses it to show the atrocities that human beings can do to one another under the blanket of war. It’s a powerful book that’s at once funny and heartbreaking.

“The truth might be stranger than fiction, but it needs a better editing.”

“I’ve always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept.”

Side Note: Benioff has written the screenplay quite a few films, including The Kite Runner and X-Men: Wolverine, which explains why the book felt like it was paced like a movie (not in a bad way). He’s also married to actress Amanda Peet, who knew?

11 comments:

Charley said...

Hmm... I'm trying to recall references to defecating, but I'm drawing a blank. I do, however, recall jotting down a quote about masturbation that made me laugh.

Jeanne said...

I loved this book--I think the experience of reading it was part of how much I liked it, because for once I made time for reading a lot at one stretch.

She said...

I've never seen Inglorious Bastards. Seems like I should check it out...

Becky said...

Loved this book! It was so different and funny. Read Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell for a similar style.

Care said...

I go back and forth on whether or not I want to read this. Let's see if it forces myself onto my tbr path, I guess. Sometimes books do that, ya know.

Avid Reader said...

Charley - Kolya gives us a running update throughout the book about when he was last able to poop. It was definitely written by a boy.

Jeanne - Isn't it amazing how your experience and situation while you're reading it makes all the difference.

She - There's definitely some violence in Inglorious Bastards, but I wasn't expecting such an amazing story.

Becky - I've read Beat the Reaper and I loved it! Again, graphic violence, but such a funny book.

Care - They do, and this one sweeps you right along. I hope you like it!

Jamie said...

I keep seeing this one but didn't really know much about it. I'm so happy you reviewed it. I love WWII books and have NEVER read one set in Russia either. I like balance so I'm definitely adding this to my TBR list! Thank you!

Avid Reader said...

Jamie - Can't wait to hear what you think. I loved seeing WWII from a different culture's point-of-view. There are so few Russia WWII books.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I also love reading about WWII and this is a book that I've had my eye on for a while and am not sure why I haven't checked this one out yet. So many books...

Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

I loved this book!! Still some of the most vivid memories I have from any single work -- the chicken coop on the roof and the cabin in the snow....wowzaa!!

Avid Reader said...

Gerbera - I know! Some of those scenes will be burned into my memory forever.