A brilliant piece, no less. I took David Benioff‘s book “City Of Thieves” as my pick for the monthly book club we have and I am quite pleased with my pick. But first things first. David Benioff is not a Russian, as I thought, his surname is his mother’s maiden name which he took in his forties. I do wish to believe that it was because of the passion that grew in him while writing City of Thieves, so don’t spoil the fun for me. And the book itself is on Soviet Russia in WWII, fighting the Germans. Funny how many demonized things were shown from the other side and it truly became a beautiful piece of work. Mind you, things like NKVD are shown from a little different perspective, but they’re not being made good guys. It just shows that there are things on the inside not everyone agrees with, not even them themselves, truly interesting.
So, the book. The annotation will tell you the general plot idea – in a starving city two friends have to find a dozen of eggs, so that Colonel would be able to make a cake for his daughter’s wedding party. But it’s not just about the hunt of the eggs, even though their life depends on it, many things threaten their beings, including the same hunger. And those “they” are: Kolya, a Red Army man who got accused of deserting. He wasn’t, but his story is so ridiculous, you’d think he deserved it (he didn’t, he’s a good and kind man). The main protagonist – Lev, half jew, a bitter boy who served the Watch (sort of like fire-fighters, I’m not sure), dreamed of adventure, but when adventure finally knocked on the door – had to truly fight his own fears. He was arrested for looting a dead German paratrooper, killed by the cold while landing out of his done plane. He and his friends ran when the higher ranked watchmen came, but one of them slipped and the adventure chose to take the heroic one. Lev saved his friend in exchange getting caught himself and thrown into Crosses, a jail with no way back out of it, as it seemed, together with Kolya. Eventually they’re told they only need to get a dozen of eggs and they’ll be free, but find the damn dozen in a starving city.
They fought and escaped cannibals, traveled, got lost, saved a group of captive girls, more by an accident, joined the partisans and so on and on. All the time Lev and Kolya were introducing us into this crazy world of theirs, so simple in the time of war. For instance, Kolya is a bimbo with kind heart, sexually active and sort of free, as he views it (though don’t get tricked by his bravado, he’s just as shy as Lev is, but more of different things), while young Lev is a virgin who feels mocked when Kolya tries giving advice. They both run days and days without eating so it was just purely funny to hear all the sex talk, the jokes and Kolya’s counting the days of when he last pooped.
And then there’s Vika. A brilliant female sniper from a serious force in Russia. At the moment she’s with the partisans and they go after the critical man in German War Forces, a highest ranking, as I figured it, Bahnfuhrer-something, Abendroth. How she joined them? Well, more like they joined her. In the end, who in the famine-torn land could have a dozen of eggs if not a German of such high rank? And Abendroth just happens to be a great chess player. Just like our boy Lev here…
It was truly an amazing book, definitely one of my favorites now. Mr Benioff has a great writing style, with just enough philosophy and memories to not have you bored for a minute. One of those books I’ve read to 4AM with not a damn regret when the next dawn came to wake me. So, obviously, 5 out of 5, no haggling.