City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves - David Benioff

For a book that took place during WW2, specifically the siege of Leningrad, this was quite a light read. That was probably because the plot was centred on a search for a dozen eggs! That might sounds a bit weird, so let me explain.

 

Our two protagonists, Kolya and Lev, meet when they spend the night holed-up together in the Crosses, the Russian cells. Koyla is a twenty year old man who’s suspected of deserting his unit and Lev was found stealing from the body of a German air-fighter that dropped from the sky. Both are offences punishable by death, but instead of execution, they’re instructed by Colonel Grechko to locate a dozen eggs to be used in the baking of his daughter’s wedding cake. Yeah, you heard right, the country is starving and all the Colonel cares about is a wedding cake! There are no eggs to be had in a country rife with starvation, but Koyla and Lev are dedicated to the search and spend the rest of the book looking for these illusive eggs.

 

I really enjoyed the juxaposition of the war with a seemingly senseless search for eggs. It served as a distraction for the harshness that Lev and Koyla had to negotiate and in that way highlighted their humanity.

 

The writing was excellent and it flowed extremely well, propelling me forward when the harshness of the time made me want to stop reading.

 

This was a dark book that used symbolism and black humour to good effect. The characters of Koyla and Lev were entertaining, especially Koyla who was the instrument of much of the humour. I wasn’t particularly emotionally invested in them though, which was a pity, because it did mean the book had a lesser impact on me.

 

The pacing was OK, with a couple of surprises and enough happening to sustain my interest. Some events did feel a little contrived at times, but mostly it was well-done.
An enjoyable read that had very humane undertones and even though I may not think about it for long, I’ll always remember it.