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City of Thieves: A Novel Paperback – March 31, 2009
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“The novel tells a refreshingly traditional tale, driven by an often ingenious plot . . . [Benioff] shifts tone with perfect control - no recent novel I have read travels so quickly and surely between registers, from humor to devastation.”
-The New York Times Book Review
“This spellbinding story perfectly blends tragedy and comedy.”
“Splendid . . . Benioff has produced a funny, sad, and thrilling novel.”
-Entertainment Weekly (Grade: A-)
“Benioff blends humor and horror expertly.”
-San Francisco Chronicle
“A deft storyteller, Benioff writes about starvation, cannibalism, and Nazi atrocities with poise and cinematic flair. If Thieves were a movie, it would start out like Schindler’s List and end up like Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
"City of Thieves is a coming-of-age story brilliantly amplified by its worn-torn backdrop . . . Benioff’s finest achievement in "City of Thieves" has been to banish all possible pretensions from his novel, which never wears its research on its sleeve, and to deliver a rough-and-tumble tale that clenches humor, savagery, and pathos squarely together on the same page."
-The Washington Post
“City of Thieves is flat-out great . . . Benioff’s screen writing chops are in full force here - the plot careens along with cinematic verve - but that’s expected. The surprise is Benioff’s understated wisdom and tenderness.”
“David Benioff, has written a gripping war novel. With lots of humour, suspense and tragedy he shows the desperate lives of the people who were caught between two opposing forces during the Second World War.”
About the Author
David Benioff was born and raised in New York City. He adapted his first novel, The 25th Hour, into the feature film directed by Spike Lee. With many other screenplays to his credit, he is also the writer of the films, "Brothers" and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine". Stories from his critically acclaimed collection When the Nines Roll Over appeared in Best New American Voices and The Best Nonrequired American Reading. His latest novel is City of Thieves. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter where he is a co-creator and writer for the HBO hit series "Game of Thrones."
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As some reviewers mentioned, the story contains a number of graphic scene descriptions that are mostly oriented toward wartime gore and atrocity rather than sexual explicitness. The author does not gratuitously dwell on these; they are just a realistic part of life in a country under siege. There is gruffness, profanity, dirty jokes, rough camaraderie, and banter, but never unnaturally exaggerated—everything feels quite true to life.
The only suspension of disbelief required of the reader occurs early on, when we are supposed to believe that leaving the city and not returning is never considered a real option by Lev. At the very beginning of the book we are told that Lev's family had already left the city, and soon thereafter we quickly discover that most of Leningrad is virtually starving. Why would he never consider just leaving the blockaded city when he had the chance, and rejoining his family elsewhere?
Along the way, some basic truths surface in the course of their adventure, a number of which are embedded in the fictional work that Kolya constantly refers to. It also becomes obvious at one point that, as is so often said in war, the soldier ultimately fights for only two reasons—his own self-survival and that of the guy next to him.
The narrative flows smoothly and engagingly throughout, and I had a hard time putting it down once I really got started. If one does need to stop, it is easy to pick it up again. The story line is narrated by Lev in the first person as a straight-line plot, and does not jump around in time or branch to other narratives. Great read.
The plot was really unique, if course. I mean, eggs? All of the characters were amazing. I was truly sad to see some of them go. I won't be forgetting them anytime soon.This is a book that tugged at my heart.
Beautiful, if graphic, writing.
It is a fact if a shame that so much of what happened on the Russian Front is not known in the US. The horrors visited upon the Russian people seldom get the kind of attention they deserve.
I highly recommend City Of Thieves to anyone wanting to better their understanding of the terrors visited upon humanity by the Third Reich.