A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
One might think it impossible to tell the story of WWII Leningrad with humor, but David Benioff pulls it off. Two young Russian men, charged with minor crimes for which they are about to lose their lives, are given an opportunity to save their own skins if they can manage to find a dozen eggs within five days, so that the colonel’s daughter can have a cake at her wedding.
This is no easy task. Leningrad is under siege by Nazis, and the starving populace has been reduced to eating glue and dirt. These young men begin their quest among the city’s desperate, including cannibals and others forced into crime to survive, but quickly conclude that they must forage farther afield. They finally escape from the city to seek a rumored poultry collective located behind German lines. Along the way they encounter the gruesome detritus of recent battles, and they wind up in the camps of the dreaded Einsatzgruppen death squads.
City of Thieves would be a grim read were it not for the fast-paced action and the unlikely friendship that develops between the appealing main characters, the naive Lev and the literary womanizer Kolya. Well researched and based in part on anecdotes from Benioff’s grandfather, this compelling tale is told with compassion and humor, and will leave you satisfied in the end.
Reviewed by Nancy