Sunday, May 24, 2009


City of Thieves, David Beniott, Viking Pneguin, 2008, 258 pp

This was a much reviewed book last year and a favorite of Once Upon A Time owner, Maureen. During the Siege of Leningrad in 1944, two young men become unlikely friends when they are thrown into the same holding cell in a Russian jail.

Lev Beniov, son of a Jewish father and a Christian mother, tells the story. He is 17, his mother and sister have evacuated, while he stays behind in Leningrad in their apartment building, serving as a fire watcher. Everyone is cold and slowly starving to death.

Kolya is the daring loud-mouthed young soldier who has been arrested for desertion and leads Lev on a wild, bold chase that includes finding a dozen eggs for an NKVD colonel, meeting up with a partisan resistance group which includes a young female sharpshooter and knocking off a cruel German general while Lev beats the man at chess.

Amidst plenty of action and several breatless escapes, you get to know these two wildly different young men and experience the extreme horror of the seige and the German attempt to conquer Russia. It was an entertaining read and informative as well but it was obvious to me that Benioff is a screenwriter. Despite plenty of cultural references to Russian literature and music (Lev's father was a poet taken by the NKVD and Kolya is a budding writer) there was a lack of depth to the story and characters. City of Thieves would make a great movie and I do like reading about other cultures in other times, though Soviet Russia was barely a "culture."

Note: This book is in stock at Once Upon A Time and can be ordered by clicking on the cover image.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:35 AM

    I really enjoyed this book. I disagree with Judy that the charcters lacked depth. I thought they were all well fleshed out and we learned a lot about the two protagonist in a short period of time. The story was an intereting concept and though set in WWII Russia, it was a story about so much more. I would recommend this book.

    Lisa M.