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City of Thieves By David Benioff

City of Thieves

by David Benioff

PBR Book Review: The backdrop for this Historical fiction novel is the siege of Leningrad during WWII. Wartime is tough and as the journey of the two lead characters is followed, the author very realistically depicts the starvation, suffering and constant state of fear the Russians live with. The plot is not complex; the complexity lies with the depth of character development and the wonderful heartwarming relationship that develops between Lev and Kolya. This storyline of male camaraderie and bonding makes for an engaging read; it’s the heart of the book. One young man is charismatic and outspoken, the other insecure and quiet, they are behind enemy lines and surrounded by devastation; the result is an unusual mix of funny, sad, horrifying and touching. In short, a nicely paced novel that although not totally believable, a very entertaining read.



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*Author Website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Benioff

*Other Books by Same Author: “The 25th Hour", "When the Nines Roll Over".

*Discussion Questions



David wants to hear about his grandfather’s experiences firsthand. Why is it important for us to cultivate and preserve our oral histories? Do you have a relative or friend whose story you believe should be captured for posterity?

Lev’s father is taken—and almost certainly killed—by the NKVD, yet Lev himself stays behind to defend Leningrad. How do you think he reconciled his patriotism to his love for his father?

In the midst of a major historical moment, Lev is preoccupied with thoughts of food and sex. What does this tell us about experiencing history as it unfolds?

From the cannibals in the market to the sex slaves in the farmhouse, there are numerous illustrations of the way in which war robs us of our humanity. In your opinion, what was the most poignant example of this and why?

Kolya tells Lev that the government should “put the famous on the front lines” (p. 67) rather than use them as the spokespeople for patriotic propaganda. Do you agree or disagree? Can you think of any contemporary instances of this practice?

Aside from the sly pride that Lev notices, are there any other clues that give Kolya away as the true author of The Courtyard Hound?

Do you think Markov’s denouncer should have remained silent about the partisan’s presence? Did either of them deserve to die?

Even moments before Lev pulls his knife on the Sturmbannführer, he thinks: “I had wanted him dead since I’d heard Zoya’s story. . . . [But] I didn’t believe I was capable of murdering him” (p. 228). Do you think everyone—given the right motivation—is capable of killing another human being? Could you?

Lev takes an instinctive dislike to Kolya yet comes to consider him his best friend. What was the turning point in their relationship?

Lev says that Vika “was no man’s idea of a pinup girl,” (p.149) but he is instantly infatuated. Would he have been drawn to her had they met in different—safer—circumstances?

Book Summary
From the publisher: A writer visits his retired grandparents in Florida to document their experience during the infamous siege of Leningrad. His grandmother won’t talk about it, but his grandfather reluctantly consents. The result is the captivating odyssey of two young men trying to survive against desperate odds. Lev Beniov considers himself built for deprivation. He is small, smart, and insecure, a Jewish virgin too young for the army, who spends his nights working as a volunteer firefighter with friends from his building. When a dead German paratrooper lands in his street, Lev is caught looting the body and dragged to jail, fearing for his life. He shares his cell with the charismatic and grandiose Kolya, a handsome young soldier arrested on desertion charges. Instead of the standard bullet in the back of the head, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful colonel to use in his daughters wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt to find the impossible. A search that takes them through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and the devastated surrounding countryside creates an unlikely bond between this earnest, lust filled teenager and an endearing lothario with the gifts of a conman. Set within the monumental events of history, City of Thieves is an intimate coming of age tale with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.
 
 
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