City of Thieves

Benioff, David. City of Thieves. Read by Ron Perlman. New York: Penguin Audio, 2009

Leningrad, 1942. Lev Beniof is arrested for being out after curfew and caught in the act of robbing the dead body of a German paratrooper. The penalty for such crimes is death. Awaiting his fate Lev meets fellow prisoner and alleged Red Army deserter, Kolya Vlasov. Lev and Kolya couldn’t be more mismatched. Lev is a quiet and unassuming insomniac Russian Jew, only 17 and still an insecure, awkward virgin. Kolya a 20 year old smooth (never shuts up) talker, exceedingly well read and charming. Instead of being executed as expected together they are tasked with finding a dozen eggs for Colonel Grechko’s daughter’s wedding cake. Finding these eggs in starved Leningrad is absurd but it is also a matter of life and death.
The horrors or war and the harsh realities of deprivation are an interesting juxtaposition against the sometimes comical relationship of Lev and Kolya. Their growing friendship reminds me of Gene and Phineas from John Knowles’s A Separate Peace. While the two endure the bitter cold, starvation and the threat of the German enemy their journey is tempered with Kolya’s humorous blatherings about jokes, literature and sex. The ending is predictable but stays with you long after you close the book.

Reason read: January was Russia’s coldest month on record. Read in honor of that.

Author fact: According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia Benioff took his mother’s maiden name but was born Friedman.

Book trivia: There is a rumor floating around that this will be made into a movie.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Saint Petersburg/Leningrad/Saint Petersburg” (p 195). Interestingly enough, plays up the “historical fiction” hype. In the first chapter of City of Thieves Benioff insinuates the story is about his grandfather and that when his grandfather refused to be specific about some details he was told to “make it up.” None of that is true. It just makes for a more interesting story to think that it *could* have happened that way.

January ’13 was…

When I look back on January 2013 I have a sense of relief. All things considered this month was better than the last. In the grand scheme of things January treated me kind. No major meltdowns. No minor catastrophes to speak of. I started training for Just ‘Cause in the quiet way. Four to five miles a day and I didn’t stress about the numbers. If I didn’t make five or even four I didn’t have a hissy fit or beat myself or moi up. I cut me & myself some slack; gave us a break. I know that as the months wear on this won’t always be the case, but for now it was nice to go easy on me, myself & moi. The running was a different matter. Just as relaxed a schedule but not so easy going on. The run is a little over six weeks away and I’ve done next to nil in order to train. New Guinea has been awesome in that I’m working on speed intervals on level five. Let me repeat that. Level five. Nothing to write home about. I used to operate at level nine. Enough said. On with the books! I am pretty proud of the list.

  • Lives of the Painters, Architects and Sculptors by Giorgio Vasari ~ in honor of National Art Month way back in October. This finally completes the series!
  • Ancient Athens on 5 Drachmas a Day by Philip Matyszak ~ in honor of Female Domination Day in Greece.
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray ~ in honor of January being the first month I read something from the first chapter of a Lust book. I admit I didn’t finish this one.
  • Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham ~ in honor of Maugham’s birth month. I also didn’t finish this one.
  • Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron ~ Happy new year. Read something to make me happy.
  • Idle Days in Patagonia by W. H. Hudson ~ in honor of January being the best time to visit Patagonia.
  • The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll ~ in honor of Lewis birth and death month.
  • Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson ~ in honor of the month all Creatures Great and Small aired.
  • Tatiana by Dorothy Jones ~ in honor of January being the month Alaska became a state.

On audio I listened to:

  • Final Solution by Michael Chabon ~ in honor of January being Adopt a Rescued Bird month.
  • No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith ~ in honor of Female Mystery Month
  • City of Thieves by David Benioff ~ last minute add-on. This was addicting!

For the Early Review program with LibraryThing:

  • Gold Coast Madam by Rose Laws (started in Dec)
  • Her by Christa Parravani

For Fun:

  • Leave Your Sleep the poetry book for children by Natalie Merchant