City of Thieves

Written by David Benioff
Review by Mike Ashworth


It is 1941, and the siege of Leningrad is at its height. Lev, seventeen years old, is caught looting a dead German. However, instead of being given the death penalty, he is paired up with Kolya, who has been arrested for desertion, and given four days in which to find a dozen eggs for the General’s daughter’s wedding cake. Their search through the ruins of Leningrad and behind German lines to try to achieve their aim forms the story.

The characters are well drawn, and the book is has an immediacy which draws you in. The harshness of life in the city is portrayed in a natural, non-sensational way which makes the careless violence experienced throughout the book more shocking. If you are prepared to suspend your disbelief over the plot, you will find a novel of moral ambiguity, comradeship, and a coming of age where the young Lev must face up to the harsh realities of war, where survival is the only objective and casual brutality is a way of life. This book will not be to everyone’s taste, but if you are looking for something different, try it; you may just like it.