Review: City of Thieves
This is not the kind of novel I usually read. This is a kind of historical fiction based on a true story thing that's usually something I would stay away from. For the most part I find the real world and it's issues rather boring. Why write about a war when you could write about a war with dragons? Why read about politicians when you could read about the machinations of wizards and the occasional evil duke?
But this novel was suggested to me by the love of my life, so I read it, as you do when the love of your life suggests things.
I'm glad I did because City of Thieves is excellent, and more fantastical then the real world has any right to be. The story of two men, really a man and a young man, struggling to find some eggs in Leningrad during World War 2 took me on a flight of fancy that no dragon has been able to match in recent memory.
Though based on a true story, it is presented as something a grandfather is telling his now grown grandchild, and the story is filled with all the flourishes and eccentricities that one might expect from a story pulled from memory. The horrors and quiet moments all move and breathe in a way that feels very real and alive while still living in a place outside of time for someone like me who exists in the moments after. In the peaceful (mostly) world built on the powerful, tragic and benign events of the second great war.
Even as the story is driven by the world shattering events of the period, it is the small details and little character moments that make the book shine. You never forget that everyone the two main characters interact with, was likely a living breathing person. There were no flat moments, only moments to breath. There were shocking horrors but presented with the shaded memory of the past. There are moments of real beauty that bring the reality of the period to forefront before leaving you with the incongruity of trying to live in Stalin's Russia. I can't recommend this book enough to any kind of reader. Whatever genre preference you might have, I think that City of Thieves will be for you.
City of Thieves receives five stars out of five.