City of Thieves

By David Benioff,

Book cover of City of Thieves

Book description

From the critically acclaimed author of The 25th Hour and When the Nines Roll Over and co-creator of the HBO series Game of Thrones, a captivating novel about war, courage, survival - and a remarkable friendship that ripples across a lifetime.

During the Nazis' brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked City of Thieves as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

City of Thieves occupies the top shelf in my library. Why? Is it because now I’m watching the people of Ukraine battle a merciless enemy or because David Benioff has packed a tale that swings between unlikely comrades, a tender courtship, and the Nazis’ siege of Leningrad in WWII? Maybe both answers. But I read this book years ago. The deep humanity of the story is also a thriller that made me laugh and shudder through its short length of 258 pages. It doesn’t hurt that Benioff is a gifted screenwriter, too.

Can there be any bleaker setting than Leningrad during the German siege in 1942, when starving citizens lick glue from the spines of books for food? Yet, despite the bleakness, this novel brims with humor and insight. It is structured as a quest undertaken by two prisoners: 17-year-old Lev, arrested for looting, and Kolya, a Russian soldier accused of desertion. A Russian colonel promises them freedom if they can breach the siege lines and return in two weeks with a dozen eggs for his daughter’s wedding cake. Along the way the pair encounters, among others, cannibals, German soldiers, Russian partisans,…

From Laurie's list on immersive settings of time and place.

Reminiscent of the earthy humor and frank insight of Huck Finn, the novel concerns the siege of Leningrad. Hungry like so many in the city, the main character, Lev Beniov, a young Soviet boy, is arrested for looting for food. Along with an older prisoner Kolya, they are given a chance at saving their necks by a strange edict: they must find a dozen eggs for a Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. Set against the hellish world of suffering, starvation, and death that was Leningrad, the two boys set off on a quest for the eggs…

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