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City of thieves : a novel / David Benioff.

By: Benioff, David.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: New York : Plume, [2009]Description: 258 p. ; 21 cm.ISBN: 9780452295292 (pbk.); 0452295297 (pbk.) :.Subject(s): Grandparent and child -- Fiction | Reminiscing in old age -- Fiction | Russians -- United States -- Fiction | Saint Petersburg (Russia) -- History -- Siege, 1941-1944Summary: Documenting his grandparents' experiences during the siege of Leningrad, a young writer learns his grandfather's story about how a military deserter and he tried to secure pardons by gathering hard-to-find ingredients for a powerful colonel's daughter's wedding cake.
List(s) this item appears in: PHS - 11 AP - Fiction
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Adult Book Phillipsburg Free Public Library
Young Adult Fiction PHS Reading List YA BEN Available pap.ed. 36748001941428
Adult Book Phillipsburg Free Public Library
Young Adult Fiction PHS Reading List YA BEN Available pap.ed. 36748001930942
Adult Book Phillipsburg Free Public Library
Young Adult Fiction PHS Reading List YA BEN Available pap.ed. 36748001930884
Adult Book Phillipsburg Free Public Library
Young Adult Fiction PHS Reading List YA BEN Available pap.ed. 36748001930827
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

From the critically acclaimed author of The 25th Hour and When the Nines Roll Over and co-creator of t he HBO series Game of Thrones , a captivating novel about war, courage, survival -- and a remarkable friendship that ripples across a lifetime.

During the Nazis' brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter's wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.

By turns insightful and funny, thrilling and terrifying, the New York Times bestseller City of Thieves is a gripping, cinematic World War II adventure and an intimate coming-of-age story with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.

Originally published: New York : Viking, 2008.

Documenting his grandparents' experiences during the siege of Leningrad, a young writer learns his grandfather's story about how a military deserter and he tried to secure pardons by gathering hard-to-find ingredients for a powerful colonel's daughter's wedding cake.

Excerpt provided by Syndetics

You have never been so hungry; you have never been so cold. When we slept, if we slept, we dreamed of the feasts we had carelessly eaten seven months earlier--all that buttered bread, the potato dumplings, the sausages--eaten with disregard, swallowing without tasting, leaving great crumbs on our plates, scraps of fat. In June of 1941, before the Germans came, we thought we were poor. But June seemed like paradise by winter. At night the wind blew so loud and long it startled you when it stopped; the shutter hinges of the burnt-out café on the corner would quit creaking for a few ominous seconds, as if a predator neared and the smaller animals hushed in terror. The shutters themselves had been torn down for firewood in November. There was no more scrap wood in Leningrad. Every wood sign, the slats of the park benches, the floorboards of shattered buildings--all gone and burning in someone's stove. The pigeons were missing, too, caught and stewed in melted ice from the Neva. No one minded slaughtering pigeons. It was the dogs and cats that caused trouble. You would hear a rumor in October that someone had roasted the family mutt and split it four ways for supper; we'd laugh and shake our heads, not believing it, and also wondering if dog tasted good with enough salt-- there was still plenty of salt, even when everything else ran out we had salt. By January the rumors had become plain fact. No one but the best connected could still feed a pet, so the pets fed us. There were two theories on the fat versus the thin. Some said those who were fat before the war stood a better chance of survival: a week without food would not transform a plump man into a skeleton. Others said skinny people were more accustomed to eating little and could better handle the shock of starvation. I stood in the latter camp, purely out of self-interest. I was a runt from birth. Big-nosed, black-haired, skin scribbled with acne--let's admit I was no girl's idea of a catch. But war made me more attractive. Others dwindled as the ration cards were cut and cut again, halving those who looked like circus strongmen before the invasion. I had no muscle to lose. Like the shrews that kept scavenging while the dinosaurs toppled around them, I was built for deprivation. So I was too young for the army but old enough to dig anti-tank ditches by day and guard the roofs by night. Manning my crew were my friends from the 5th floor, Vera Osipovna, a talented cellist, and the redheaded Antokolsky twins, whose only known talent was an ability to fart in harmony. In the early days of the war we had smoked cigarettes on the roof, posing as soldiers, brave and strong and square-chinned, scanning the skies for the enemy. By the end of December there were no cigarettes in Leningrad, at least none made with tobacco. A few desperate souls crushed fallen leaves, rolled them in paper and called them Autumn Lights, claiming the right leaves provided a decent smoke, but in the Kirov, far from the nearest standing tree, this was never an option. We spent our spare minutes hunting rats, who must have thought the disappearance of the city's cats was the answer to all their ancient prayers, until they realized there was nothing left to eat in the garbage. We had a little radio on the roof with us. On New Year's Eve we listened to the Spassky chimes in Moscow playing the Internationale. Vera had found half an onion somewhere; she cut it into four pieces on a plate smeared with sunflower oil. When the onion was gone we mopped up the remaining oil with our ration bread. Ration bread did not taste like bread. It did not taste like food. After the Germans bombed the Badayev grain warehouses, the city bakeries got creative. Everything that could be added to the recipe without poisoning people was added to the recipe. The entire city was starving, no one had enough to eat, and still, everyone cursed the bread, the sawdust flavor, how hard it got in the cold. People broke their teeth trying to chew it. Even today, even when I've forgotten the faces of people I loved, I can still remember the taste of that bread. Half an onion and a 125-gram loaf of bread split four ways--this was a decent meal. We lay on our backs, wrapped in blankets, watching the air raid blimps on their long tethers drifting in the wind, listening to the radio's metronome. When there was no music to play or news to report, the radio station transmitted the sound of a metronome, that endless tick-tick-tick letting us know the city was still unconquered, the Fascists still outside the gate. The broadcast metronome was Piter's beating heart, and the Germans never stilled it. It was Vera who spotted the man falling from the sky. She shouted and pointed and we all stood to get a better look. One of the searchlights shone on a parachutist descending towards the city, his silk canopy a white tulip bulb above him. "A Fritz," said Oleg Antokolsky, and he was right, we could see the grey Luftwaffe uniform. Where had he come from? None of us had heard the sounds of aerial combat or the report of an AA gun. We hadn't heard a bomber passing overhead for close to an hour. "Maybe it's started," said Vera. For weeks we'd been hearing rumors that the Germans were preparing a massive paratrooper drop, a final raid to pluck the miserable thorn of Leningrad from their advancing army's backside. At any minute we expected to look up and see thousands of Nazis drifting toward the city, a snowstorm of white parachutes blotting out the sky, but dozens of searchlights slashed through the darkness and found no more enemies. There was only this one, and judging from the limpness of the body suspended from the parachute harness, he was already dead. Excerpted from City of Thieves by David Benioff All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Kirkus Book Review

Novelist and screenwriter Benioff's glorious second novel (The 25th Hour, 2000) is a wild action-packed quest, and much else besides: a coming-of-age story, an odd-couple tale and a juicy footnote to the historic World War II siege of Leningrad. It's New Year's Eve, 1941, and Lev Beniov is alone in Leningrad. (Note that last name: This novel was sparked by tape-recorded memories of author Benioff's grandfather.) The 17-year-old's mother and sister were evacuated before the siege began in September; his father, a respected poet, was "removed" by the NKVD in 1937. Lev's real troubles begin when a German paratrooper, frozen to death, lands on his street. Lev deserts his firefighter's post, steals the German's knife, is arrested by soldiers and jailed. His cellmate is 20-year-old Kolya, a boastful Cossack deserter, dazzlingly handsome in contrast to scrawny Lev, who hates his telltale big nose (he's half-Jewish); their initial hostility turns into the closest of bonds. Sparing their lives, for now, NKVD Colonel Grechko gives them a near-impossible assignment in this starving city: five days to find a dozen eggs for his daughter's wedding cake. There's nothing doing on the black market. Then Kolya hears of a poultry collective...behind German lines. That's where they must go, decides Kolya, and Benioff makes his boundless self-confidence entirely credible. Over half the novel happens in enemy territory. Lev and Kolya stumble on a farmhouse where four pretty Russian girls are being kept as sex slaves by a Nazi death squad. (The connection between sex and death is a major theme.) The slave-owners are killed by Russian partisans, one of whom is the deadly sniper Vika, a young tomboy who steals Lev's heart. Despite a "parade of atrocities," the pace will keep your adrenaline pumping right up to the climactic chess game between Lev and a fiendish Nazi officer. This gut-churning thriller will sweep you along and, with any luck, propel Benioff into bestseller land. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

New York Times Book Review

I WANT to hate David Benioff. He's annoyingly handsome. He's already written a pair of unputdownable books, one of which was made into Spike Lee's most heartbreaking film, "The 25th Hour" for which Benioff was asked to write the screenplay, leading to a second career in Hollywood. (They should just get it over with and put the man in the movies already.) He takes his morning orange juice next to Amanda Peet. And he's still in his 30s. See what I mean? Benioff's new novel reveals why there are so many Russians - not oligarchs or prostitutes, but soldiers and old babushkas - in this nice American boy's fiction. "City of Thieves" follows a character named Lev Beniov, the son of a revered Soviet Jewish poet who was "disappeared" in the Stalinist purges, as Lev and an accomplice carry out an impossible assignment during the Nazi blockade of Leningrad. Before Lev begins to tell his story, however, a young Los Angeles screenwriter named David visits his grandfather in Florida, pleading for his memories of the siege. But this is no postmodern coquetry. In fact, the novel tells a refreshingly traditional tale, driven by an often ingenious plot. And after that first chapter Benioff is humble enough to get out of its way. For some writers, Russia inspires extravagant lamentations uttered into the eternity of those implacable winters. Happily, Benioff's prose doesn't draw that kind of attention to itself. Lev, an intelligent, awkward, eternally self-doubting Jewish teenager, and Kolya, a Slavic Adonis, have been imprisoned after wartime infractions. Awaiting execution, they're summoned by the secret police: Colonel Grechko's daughter is getting married, and eggs are needed for the cake. It would be easier to find snow in Saudi Arabia, but if Lev and Kolya can locate a dozen they'll get back their ration cards - and their lives. Very soon, the odd couple are dodging a husband-and-wife team of cannibals and seducing their way - well, Kolya is, at least - through the starving city. This isn't flippant or inappropriately irreverent: gallows humor, so nourished by the horrors of Stalin's regime, certainly survived into the era of the blockade. In contrast to the piety of so many of today's historical novels - their facts unimpeachable and their souls somewhere in the library - Benioff's book lets its characters inhabit the human condition in all of its sometimes compromised versatility. But it's never cavalier, because the author has done his research. Benioff could have read in a history book - or learned from his grandfather - that cannibals first went for the buttocks, "the softest meat, easiest for making patties and sausages," but an expletive that a passing driver shouts at Lev and Kolya requires a sixth sense. I know of no such phrase in Russian, but in an English-language novel simulating Russian speech, it captures precisely the maternal obsessions of Russian swearing. The research never stands out because Benioff weaves it in so deftly. He shifts tone with perfect control - no recent novel I've read travels so quickly and surely between registers, from humor to devastation - and expertly evokes the vagaries of Lev's adolescence. Readers who look down on plot-driven fiction will learn something new, even if Benioff miscalculates with a too-neat resolution, which includes both a love interest and a coming-of-age challenge. But if this is Benioff's grandfather's story, that's the way it must have happened, right? Who knows. In a recent interview, Benioff said the novel's first chapter was pure invention - that all four of his grandparents were born in the United States. But in the bound galleys of the novel he thanked his grandfather for his "patience with my latenight phone calls" about the blockade. The final version of the book doesn't carry that acknowledgment. What gives? In its own modest way, "City of Thieves" becomes a commentary on the literary rigidities of our day. James Frey and Margaret B. Jones - gifted storytellers who, perhaps cravenly, mislabeled their work as nonfiction - are eviscerated in the same court of public opinion that venerates apple-cheeked first-timers who transcribe every heartbeat of their suburban youth but have the moxie to call it fiction. Benioff's opening chapter, "true" or not, is a gentle reminder that fiction is often nonfiction warped by artifice, and that nonfiction is unavoidably a reinvention of what actually happened. In exposing these seams - God bless his editor for leaving in that chapter - Benioff reminds us what a beautifully ambiguous world we live in. Boris Fishman has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic and other publications.
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