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City of Thieves Paperback – 1 Jun 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 120 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (1 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340977396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340977392
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Complex and compelling. . . a thought-provoking novel that leaves its own lingering , haunting presence in the reader's imagination'

(Waterstone's Books Quarterly )

'This gut-churning thriller will sweep you along and, with any luck, propel Benioff into bestseller land' 

(Kirkus - starred review)

'Told with compelling power'

(Sunday Telegraph) 'Expert tone. . . fine sense of pace. (Financial Times );

'A hard-to-put-down novel . . . Benioff blends tense adventure, a bittersweet coming-of-age and an oddly touching buddy narrative to craft a smart crowd-pleaser'

(Publisher's Weekly ) --x

'Complex and compelling. . . a thought-provoking novel that leaves its own lingering , haunting presence in the reader's imagination'

(Waterstone's Books Quarterly )

'This gut-churning thriller will sweep you along and, with any luck, propel Benioff into bestseller land' 

(Kirkus - starred review )

'Told with compelling power'

(Sunday Telegraph )

'Expert tone. . . fine sense of pace." (Financial Times )

'A hard-to-put-down novel . . . Benioff blends tense adventure, a bittersweet coming-of-age and an oddly touching buddy narrative to craft a smart crowd-pleaser'

(Publisher's Weekly )

Book Description

A thrilling novel from the critically-acclaimed author of THE 25TH HOUR and one of Hollywood's brightest screenwriting stars.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
David Benioff's "City of Thieves" is something of a coming-of-age tale with a twist. The twist is the fact that the tale is set in the besieged and starving city of Leningrad in January, 1941. It is a city at war surrounded by the German army, in the middle of a bitter winter, where the last resort becomes commonplace.

The story begins in modern day America, with a brief narrative of the author's own life as a writer and then evolves into him asking his Russian grandfather to tell the story of his experiences during the war.

The main protagonists of this tale, Lev and Kolya, are each picked up by the Red Army for crimes against the state - Lev is caught on a trumped up looting charge (taking a knife from a dead German soldier), and Kolya for desertion. Although both crimes are capital offences, the boys are given an unusual lifeline - a `secret mission' by a Red Army Colonel, who agrees to grant their freedom on the condition that they steal a dozen eggs - even though eggs have not been seen in Leningrad for months - within 5 days to make his daughter's wedding cake. All they are equipped with to complete the task is their (somewhat misplaced) perceived skills in thievery, 400 roubles and their curfew waived - If they fail, they will be hunted down and shot.

It seems like the most bizarre premise, so why did I award 5 stars to City of Thieves? Well, there's a number of reasons for this, for a start, it is a very well written and very readable book, as one would expect from an author known for screenwriting. In a previous review, I criticised one book for taking the best part of 200 pages to fully set the tone of the book - David Benioff managed it in less than 10 pages (I would be surprised if a screen-writer would draw it out further).
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By Sue Kichenside TOP 500 REVIEWER on 18 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book about the quest for eggs during the siege of Leningrad makes for a cracking read!

Narrator Lev, a callow 17-year old from Jewish intellectual stock, is thrown into a prison cell for looting. There he meets Kolya, his exact opposite: a charismatic and confident Cossack in jail for desertion. As they steel themselves for the firing squad, they are thrown a life line by the NKVD colonel. He promises them their freedom in return for a dozen eggs which his wife needs to make his daughter's wedding cake. Eggs? In a starving city where people are eating cardboard - and worse - to survive? It's mission impossible.

The unlikely pair embark on an adventure that is, by turns, horrendous and hilarious but in David Benioff's deft hands always riveting. Along the way, as Lev and Kolya's mutual respect develops, the young men become friends and I would venture that you'll have to go a very long way indeed to find a more engaging pair of protagonists. My thanks to Julia Flyte whose review led me to this terrific book. City of Thieves was written in 2008 so I cannot imagine what's holding up the film of such a cinematic novel. Do hurry up!
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Format: Hardcover
I read Benioff's first novel, The 25th Hour, when it came out -- and loved it. I read his short story collection, When the Nines Roll Over, when it came out -- and loved it. I just finished this latest novel from him -- and loved it. As a storyteller, Benioff's got the complete package: mastery of setting, pacing, plotting, psychology, and especially dialogue. Here, inspired by his Russian grandfather's murky experiences during the siege of Leningrad during World War II, he creates a captivating story of adventure, hope, survival, and humor in a tautly effective short novel.

The brutal siege setting is quickly established in the opening chapter, and when the corpse of a German pilot lands near his apartment, teenage Lev Beniov and his friends quickly rush out to scavenge whatever food they can from the body. By the end of the chapter he's been caught as a "looter," and thrown in the notorious Crosses prison, where his cellmate is Kolya, a talkative and jovial army deserter only a few years his senior. Expecting to be executed the next day, they are given an unexpected reprieve by an NKVD officer, who sends them on an absurdist quest for a dozen eggs.

This takes them across the city, where they encounter people even more desperate than themselves, and rather more dangerous. Eventually, it takes them out of the city into the German-occupied countryside, where they get embroiled with a band of partisans intent on killing the commander of an Einsatzgruppen. As the duo wanders through the scary and slightly surreal winter landscape, they form a classic odd-couple bond. Lev is the uptight, awkward straight man to Kolya's charismatic, charming rogue.
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Format: Paperback
Mr Benioff is a brilliant story teller. I read Helen Dunmore's wonderful book `The Siege' a few years ago and wondered if this novel would just cover the same ground. It didn't! In this story we follow two young men who have been set the task of acquiring a dozen eggs - in Leningrad in the brutal winter of 1941 when the German army has surrounded the city and the inhabitants are so hungry they have been reduced to boiling their leather boots to make soup!

Lev and Kolya are thrown together because they were arrested on the same night. They form a friendship of sorts as they set about searching for eggs they are extremely unlikely to find. Before their allotted week is up they have escaped the clutches of cannibals, found the last chicken in the city and discovered it was a rooster, been captured by the German and escaped. There are some truly horrible images included in this story, for example a young girl has her feet sawn off by a German officer, the cannibals are making money by selling human flesh as meat and a German pilot falls from the sky dead from the cold after he has bailed out of his plane, and yet the author uses such a light touch that the book is never too dreadful to read and there are even some light-hearted passages which help the story along.

I think this a great read. The siege of Leningrad was just one of many terrible events that took place in World War II and although this book is fiction, it does make us remember the conditions the people had to endure. The device of putting two unlikely strangers together and setting them a seemingly impossible task is not new, but it works really well here. Lev's naivety and Kolya's charm give the story some lighter moments and make us care about them.
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