City of Thieves

I tore through City of Thieves by David Benioff so fast, I didn’t even write down any quotes.

This is a feat for me – always on the lookout for that gorgeous line, that perfect dialogue, the glowing sentence that holds the entire story together.

Although, “Isn’t it obvious? A dozen eggs,” does stand out.


city-of-thieves_lIn a tight, almost novelette length, Benioff weaves the tale of Lev, a Russian Jew attempting to survive in Piter (the local name for Leningrad) during its siege by the Germans in WWII.

With grit and a grim honesty usually missing from such war-time tales, Benioff effectively conveys the absurd and cruel experiences of war. Unlike other attempts at explaining the Russian experience, City of Thieves leaves the reader saddened, but also with a feeling of authenticity of Piter as a people and place.

There’s little to no heavy-handed moralizing or overwrought drama – although it is filled with scenes of horror that at times left me clinching my jaw to get through.

As framed by an introductory vignette, this book is supposedly the creation of Lev’s grandson, being told the tale on the balcony of his grandparents’ Florida home.

Yet it goes further than explaining experience, probing what perseveres in our memory, what details we just make up later, and the true depths of the human capability for survival – and escapism.




One thought on “City of Thieves

  1. Pingback: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena | Manresa, Maine

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