Monday, January 03, 2011

52 Books, Book 1

I actually started City of Thieves by David Benioff last week but didn't finish until after the new year, so I am counting it towards 2011.

This story takes place during the Nazi siege of Leningrad. Lev Beniov is thrown into prison for looting and ends up in the same cell as Kolya, a deserter from the Red Army. This unlikely duo is given the opportunity to avoid death if they can perform one task: find 12 eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel whose daughter is getting married and wants a real wedding cake.

They have less than a week to secure the eggs. It is the dead of winter in Russia and food of any kind is scarce {much less fresh eggs}. A series of events lands them as prisoners of the German army. They cut a deal with the Germans that if Lev can beat one of the high-ranking German officials at chess, the Germans will give them a dozen eggs. You will have to read the story for yourself to find out what happens...

I enjoyed this story, though some of the brutality of war was difficult to read.

Excerpts from the book:
Darkness and solitude didn't frighten me. Electricity was as rare as bacon in Piter in those days... The nights were dark and quiet, but there was always noise somewhere... awful sounds, really, but sounds – something to let you know you were still in this world. That cell in the Crosses was the only truly silent place I'd ever entered. I could hear nothing at all; I could see nothing. They had locked me in death's waiting room.

Perhaps I had always known they would disappear one day, and so I had kept them at a distance, laughed at their jokes and listened to their plans but never really trusted their existence.

"The Germans. They think they're so efficient, the greatest war machine ever built. But you look at history... and the best conquerors always gave their enemies a way out... With the Germans you can fight them and get killed or you can surrender and get killed. They could have turned half of this country against the other half, but they don't have the subtlety; they don't understand the Russian mind; they just burn everything." – Kolya

I could not remember when I was not afraid, but that night it came stronger than ever before. So many possibilities terrified me. There was the possibility of shame... the possibility of pain, suffering through... torture... And there was the excellent possibility of death. I never understood people who said their greatest fear was public speaking, or spiders... How could you fear anything more than death?

There is a place beyond hunger, beyond fatigue. When time no longer seems to move and the body's misery no longer seems fully your own.


  1. Sounds like an interesting book. Great excerpts and makes me want to read the book.

  2. Would love to hear your thoughts if you read it.


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