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Monday, September 22, 2008

Highly Recommended Reading: "City of Thieves" by David Benioff

City of Thieves, by David Benioff, is excellent. Read it right now, or at least put it at the very top of your reading list.

The novel starts with a thirty-four year old writer named David traveling to Florida to visit his grandparents. For a week, David meets with his grandfather, recording stories from World War II.

The grandfather talks particularly about one week in 1942, during the Nazi siege of Leningrad. This is the week when a then 17-year-old Lev Beniov met his wife, his best friend, and killed two Germans.

Lev meets his friend, Kolya, in prison, where they feared that they would be executed. Instead, the colonel in charge gives the pair an assignment: find a dozen eggs in five days for use in the colonel's daughter's wedding cake. This is a Herculean task because Leningrad is suffering through a severe famine.

And this task is the story of the novel. The two young men, in search of eggs, negotiate the dangerous world of a city under siege and a countryside populated by enemy soldiers and guerrilla partisans.

Author David Benioff presents a wonderfully well written book. In particular, Benioff excels in his descriptive language, which is both clear and memorable. The plot is engaging, with many unexpected turns. And within the horrors of war, the main characters are compelling and at times very funny.

City of Thieves is highly recommended reading.