Monday, March 15, 2010

City of Thieves

by David Benioff

This is an excellent book. It creates that rare sense of not being able to put the book down, but not wanting to speed through it without allowing yourself to let it all sink in. Benioff presents the gruesome, unimaginable realities of WWII Russia with unexpected and inappropriately hilarious humor. The juxtaposition is striking and could not have succeeded any better than it does. Benioff knows how to manipulate and use language to create strikingly vivid scenes. Even his metaphors and similes are given lives of their own. In a short manner of time, Benioff creates characters, even fringe characters, with enough personality and back-story, so that you have a true understanding of them. Benioff is a true story teller, with a compelling story to tell. Truly, one of the best books I have read in a while. Brilliant.

I truly think this book should be included in any WWII/Holocaust lit class. This book is about the side of the war you don't hear as much about, but it is absolutely as valid. It is an excellent story.

The opening of the book reminds me of Maus by Art Spiegelman, the story within a story, a sense of metafiction, but to a much lesser degree than Maus. The stories have little to do with each other, other than the fact that they are about survivors of WWII. There's even a cat/mouse metaphor in City of Thieves, but that's it.

I must have a soft spot in my heart for coming of age stories, or bildungsroman, if you will. Some of my favorite novels are "coming of age stories": The Song of the Lark, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

City of Thieves is an exceptional book, brilliantly written. It may require a strong stomach, but it is well worth reading.

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