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Monday, March 1, 2010

Reading List: City of Thieves

Benioff, David. City of Thieves. New York: Viking, 2008. ISBN 978-0-670-01870-3.
This is a coming of age novel, buddy story, and quest saga set in the most implausible of circumstances: the 872 day Siege of Leningrad and the surrounding territory. I don't know whether the author's grandfather actually lived these events and recounted them to to him or whether it's just a literary device, but I'm certain the images you experience here will stay with you for many years after you put this book down, and that you'll probably return to it after reading it the first time.

Kolya is one of the most intriguing characters I've encountered in modern fiction, with Vika a close second. You wouldn't expect a narrative set in the German invasion of the Soviet Union to be funny, but there are quite a number of laughs here, which will acquaint you with the Russian genius for black humour when everything looks the bleakest. You will learn to be very wary around well-fed people in the middle of a siege!

Much of the description of life in Leningrad during the siege is, of course, grim, although arguably less so than the factual account in Harrison Salisbury's The 900 Days (however, note that the story is set early in the siege; conditions deteriorated as it progressed). It isn't often you read a historical novel in which Olbers' paradox figures!

Posted at March 1, 2010 21:23