A Roomful of Readers for City of Thieves

On a bitter cold Saturday in January, the KCPL/Kansas City Star FYI book group gathered to discuss City of Thieves by David Benioff. All remarked how the weather was in keeping with the book’s setting, the bleak Russian landscape in the winter of 1941-42.

Lev and Kolya are given an impossible task by a general. Find a dozen eggs to make a wedding cake and the thief and the deserter won’t be executed. The two boys meet many unusual characters on their wintery quest and forge an unlikely friendship in the process.city-of-thieves

There are many disturbing images that are hard to turn away from in the novel. One reader pointed out the scene of the little boy guarding the last live chicken while the body of his dead grandfather lay nearby. Another reader said she had to put the book down for a short while after reading about the bomb dogs.

The participants said that these elements were delivered with such realism in the novel that they were certain they happened. A reader with a strong interest in the history of the siege of Leningrad confirmed Benioff had done his research, but made a special effort to point out the ways the author had humanized these horrific elements and wove them into a great buddy story.

The “odd couple” aspect of the book garnered lots of commentary. Readers were a little put off at first by the sexual and scatological humor of the two young men, but soon decided that this is the typical conversation of boys, whether they are facing death or not. All agreed that these exchanges added needed humor and depth to the story.

Our conversation closed with one participant lightening the mood considerably by pointing to the dozen eggs he’d brought with him. Readers mused on the little things that we all take for granted and can pull us together.

This quickly-paced historical novel is a great choice for book discussions and may persuade some men to attend. To read more commentary from the participants click here.

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About the Author:

Kaite Mediatore Stover refuses to give up her day job as director of readers' services for The Kansas City Public Library to read tarot cards professionally or be the merch girl/roadie for her husband's numerous bands. Follow her on Twitter at @MarianLiberryan.

2 Comments on "A Roomful of Readers for City of Thieves"

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  1. Richard_Slapsys@uml.edu' Richard says:

    Read this book a while back and found it a quick and enjoyable read. It take a lighthearted and humorous look at a serious military situation much as “Catch 22”, M*A*S*H* “Dr. Stragelove” and more recently “Inglorious Basterds” has. There’s something to say about this type of writing. Perhaps as a reaction to the realms of serious historical perspectives of war. BTW, everyone knew that by the time they actually brought the eggs back, they wouldn’t be needed!

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