Monday, January 27, 2014

The Egg Hunt

In City of Thieves by David Benioff, Lev is a boy in his late teens who is living in Leningrad during the siege.  His father has disappeared, and his mother and sister left to find safety away from the city, leaving Lev a virtual, if not a true, orphan.  When a dead German paratrooper falls from the sky outside his building, Lev and his friends break curfew to see what they can claim from his body.  Lev is caught and arrested, and faces execution for looting.  Soon a Red Army desserter, Kolya, is thrown into Lev's jail cell.  Kolya and Lev are given a reprieve, and told that if they can just bring a dozen eggs to a certain colonel by the following Thursday, they will be set free.  Of course, finding a dozen eggs in Leningrad during the siege is no easy task.

Kolya and Lev are given a letter from the colonel allowing them passage out of Leningrad, and they are off, searching the Nazi filled countryside for eggs.  Along the way they encounter a cast of characters - some who help them and some who make their journey more difficult.  If this is sounding like a chummy little adventure, remember that they are in the middle of World War II, everyone is starving, it is winter, and the Nazis are everywhere. 

This story of the siege of Leningrad is completely different from Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah.   City is a men's coming of age story, and Winter Garden is a mother's version of the siege.  Both stories were great, and they really compliment each other with their differences.  A reader looking for more action would prefer City of Thieves.

While I really liked City, I would have liked it even more if it was true.  Benioff teases the reader by starting off with a prologue where a young writer named David is interviewing his grandfather about his life in Leningrad.  It was enough to make me think that City of Thieves is David Benioff's grandfather's story, much like Everything is Illuminated is based on Jonathan Safran Foer's grandfather's experience during the war.  Unfortunately, Benioff insists that the story is pure fiction.  I was willing to accept some of the more unlikely plot twists, and was especially impressed with Benioff's grandmother, when I thought that most of the story was true.  After all, if Louis Zamperini's story is true, what is so strange about two young men escaping execution by finding eggs? 

This book is one off my list for the Rewind Challenge.  Since I checked the audio book out of my library and listened to it that way, it also counts for the Audiobook Challenge and the I Love Library Books Challenge.  I'm moving right along. . .

Next Up On CD:  Manson:  The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn

Still Reading:  The Vanishing by Wendy Webb

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