Published May 2008
I am a history nerd. I graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in history, so many people think that means historical fiction is automatically my favorite genre to read. Until recently, no way Jose.
But then, I read The Book Thief, and All the Light We Cannot See, and most recently City of Thieves, and I realize how much I am drawn to WWII historical fiction. I have even put together a list of WWII fiction novels I need to add to my never ending TBR pile. However, with that being said, let’s talk about City of Thieves.
During the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.
Benioff writes from a first person narrative using his grandfathers memories, and does such a wonderful job of creating, (or recreating) amazingly, conflicting characters. In so short of a book I never would have imagine being as attached to Kolya and Lev as much as I was, but alas, there were tears in my eyes when I finished.
I don’t remember the last time I read a book that made me laugh and then cry within the same minute. City of Thieves was actually laugh out loud funny. Like, I wanted to read portions to my boyfriend so I would have someone to laugh with instead of chuckling by myself. This was the most impressive part of the novel; how quickly life for Lev and Kolya moved between darkly humorous to downright tragic.
That contrast is such a sharp reminder of what WWII was, and how many people suffered by just being alive in that time. Everything that we know, all the stories that we have heard or read about, there is always more. More sadness, and more suffering. Maybe that is why I have recently latched onto this genre, because it’s a horrible but necessary reminder to never forget that someone else has suffered more that I.
I know this is a quick review, but honestly, it was a quick read. I highly recommend adding this to your TBR if it’s not there already. This is a book that will make you FEEL things, both joyful and terrible. Any author that can evict those emotions is worth your time. Five stars, hands down.