Friday, May 1, 2009

May 2009 Book of the Month, City of Thieves



The Bookmark at the U's Book of the Month for May 2009 is "City of Thieves" by David Benioff. The review of this book was written by Josh Clemens, buyer at The Bookmark.

When Lindsay Wood, a rep from Penguin, recommended this book to me, I told her that I was planning on reading it but I had to get over my unfounded resentment towards the author first. She rapidly deduced the root of my envy and responded “Why? Because he’s married to Amanda Peet?” Absolutely! David Benioff has a successful writing career and he’s married to Amanda Peet! How lucky can one guy get? Wait until you read this book before you answer that question. It is purportedly based on the experiences of his grandfather during the siege of Leningrad in 1942, and it would seem that luck runs in the Benioff genes. One could say that the author has a diluted variation of the Benioff luck gene, and he would likely agree with that assessment.

A blazing quick read, City of Thieves reads like a screenplay, implausible yet not surprising, considering the author is also a screenwriter. The action takes place over a few days in the drawn out siege, and there is no surfeit of transcribed Russian words to stumble over. The narrator does his share of stumbling, but each time it is fortuitous. “Not everybody has talent,” Lev Beniov tells another character who inquires about his talents, but he doesn’t yet realize his own talent for survival. Mistaken for a thief, Beniov is paired with Kolya, a charismatic deserter, and given the task of locating a dozen eggs by a colonel in the NKVD. It is an impossible task in a besieged city, but Kolya is irrepressible. When the pair falls in with a band of partisans and meets Vika, a tomboy sniper, finding the eggs becomes Lev’s second most important conquest. Full of likable characters and humor even in the face of atrocities, City of Thieves deserves to be recommended rather than resented!