I am a 65-year-old psychologist, married for 25 years, with two sons who are 25 and 22. I love reviewing the books and the feedback I get.
If you have any Russian blood in you, as I do, this story will reverberate for you. During the war, two waifs find their way through almost incomprehensible famine, destruction, bombing by the ubiquitous Germans and winter's cold, on a mission from a Russian general to find a dozen eggs! One is Jewish, although only half, and the other is pure blond-haired, blue-eyed Cossack. This is the perfect duo. They stumble through enemy lines and eventually the Jewish boy, who is seventeen, finds himself playing chess with a monstrous Nazi Oberleuitenant (forgive my ignorance of German; perhaps it is understandable). The Nazi has murdered so many Russians, in such vile ways, that he must be killed. Along the way our boys pick up Vika, a tiny woman who is the best sniper around. She is so bony that she passes for a young boy, and Lev falls in chaste love with her. The writing is smooth and true. The narrator is an actor who knows how to use his voice. There are a few funny scenes, particularly one in which our boys, looking for eggs, find a scrawny what-they-think-is-a-chicken. They are in for a surprise. You might expect the book to be depressing, as much WWII stuff is for me now, but the author and the narrator make it rise above the Russian suffering. We know the horrendous losses that Russia sustained, but the book is worth reading for its insights into Russia. Only Martin Cruz Smith can do this better, and he is truly in a league with only one member.
Listen to this book and you will never forget it. If you've read other historical fiction based on WWII, I can guarantee that this novel will set a new benchmark. Benioff takes you on a wondrous, heartfelt, painful, funny, thrilling journey with two characters that get under your skin and stay there. Bravo!
Wow, what a great story paired with the perfect narrator. Ron Perlman's monotone delivery allows the story to unfold in the listeners mind while letting the books humor sneak up on you with laugh out loud moments. There are plenty of books on the terrible siege of Lenningrad filled with facts and stats, but none that offer such lovable, relatable characters and insight into the everyday struggles of everyday people. With the right amount of examples of the absurdity of war, it brings you in quick then takes you on a journey in the familiar QUEST format, wrapping up the story with an ending that is both happy and sad. If this is your genre than its a must listen.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is fascinating on many levels: as historical fiction depicting the siege of Leningrad, a unique friendship between two people, a type of quest and a journey. The characters are well developed and the reader does a great job of bringing them to life.
I am half through the audiobook and so irritated by Ron Perlman's slow, monotonous narration that I had to stop. He delivers dialogue acceptably. Everything in between sounds as if he can barely keep his eyes open from boredom.
As for the book itself, the beginning was promising enough, and Benioff can definitely write, but by now it's like listening to an abridgement or screenplay. Benioff took grandpa too literally when told to make up the rest of the story. It is under-researched and over dominated by the protagonists' normal but tedious obsession with sex. So far, women in this book are reduced to (grand)mother, witch, cypher, and sex object. The liberal use of the F-word and obscene euphemisms for female genitalia got old in a hurry.
I'd never heard of Benioff before today. Turns out he's an unusually gorgeous, successful screenwriter (25th Hour, Troy, Kite Runner), married to actress Amanda Peet; native New Yorker, Dartmouth grad, son of a former head of Goldman-Sachs. He started to write while his wife was pregnant and his daughter was born when the novel was half-finished. It was only after 9/11 that he became interested in the siege of Leningrad and finally asked his Russian immigrant grandfather about his experience. So the real story here might be Benioff, who also wrote the novel "The 25th Hour" which was published 9 months before 9/11, from which I found this rather chilling quote:
“F-ck this whole city and everyone in it. From the row-houses of Astoria to the penthouses on Park Avenue, from the projects in the Bronx to the lofts in Soho. From the tenements in Alphabet City to the brownstones in Park Slope to the split-levels in Staten Island. Let an earthquake crumble it, let the fires rage, let it burn to f-cking ash and then let the waters rise and submerge this whole rat-infested place.”
Knowing what I know now, I'll finish this book, but I want my money back for the audioproduction.
There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away Nor any Coursers like a Page Of prancing Poetry – Emily Dickinson
I really liked this book! I think David Benioff did an amazing job of weaving a very dark war story in with humorous episodes and even sexy ones. Mainly he tells a good story, and he made me care even more about the characters with his opening chapter where he seems to tell us that it really IS his grandfather who is the main character. I can't figure out from the reviews I read whether this is true or not, BUT it worked to make me evaluate the plot in a different way. Toward the end, I couldn't stop listening. I would have given it 5 stars except I guess I am a little tired of WWII stories involving Nazi atrocities. Of course, this one was focused on the Russian perspective of WWII, but I'm just not completely fond of war stories. In the last book I listened to, Out Stealing Horses, there was even a WWI/Nazi component, but it was removed from the action in a way that made in not as central to the story as in this book. Anyway, I did really enjoy listening to this book.
This book rivals "The Company" for my all time favorite audiobook. I loved the main characters and the narrator was terrific!
I tremendously enjoyed everything about this book. It is funny and exciting, yet emotionally involving. A coming of age story set in wartime. The narration by Ron Perlman was excellent. I wish the book was longer.
I just could NOT stop listening. Well written and very well narrated. I could almost feel the cold hear the snow crunching and smell the wood fires. I find it absolutely amazing to read that other reveiwers are so offended by the sexually explicit language. The words weren't expletives or there to shock or attract readers Why is it so hard to believe that two young man facing death around any corner would have these thoughts. And, so hard to conceive that a romantic, rather dramatic, slightly foolish young artist and the son of a great poet would speak in such terms. Go ahead and download this book and enjoy every word of it. I truly do not believe you will be dissapointed.
Knowledge is knowing the way. Wisdom is looking for an alternative, more interesting road to get there. Audiobooks are that road.
What could have been just another book about WWII turned out to be a wonderful historical fiction, rich with human drama and relationships. The story is about 2 men, who were thrown together in one prison cell during the siege of Leningrad. Lev, a young Jewish looter who stole a Nazi's knife, and Kolya a Russian deserter. These men were supposed to be shot in the morning but were given an ultimatum to save their own lives. Kolya is funny, courageous, very smart, over sexed and a risk taker. Lev on the other hand is an inexperienced, meek young boy of 17, who has no choice but to follow Kolya on their obscure journey to find a dozen eggs for the colonel's daughter's wedding cake. In a time when food is practically non-existent, and some have even resorted to cannibalism, these two men must find eggs. Their journey takes them on a perilous adventure, risking their lives every step of the way.
The exuberant personalities of Lev and Kolya were warm and rich, juxtaposed to the cold winter war full of Nazi horrors and despair. The book depicts perfectly the chilling atrocities of war while all the while you are enjoying yourself listening to the antics of Kolya, who in today's world I believe would have been a very successful sales man. The raw language and descriptions, which may offend some, adds authenticity to the story. There is no question this is a far-fetched tale, but what an incredible journey. The story could have benefited from being a bit longer with more historical background. Definitely one of my favorites.
Ron Perlman, the narrator does an excellent job narrating. His deep, slow purposeful voice is perfect for the characters, especially Kolya.