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City of Thieves Audiobook

City of Thieves

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Audible Editor Reviews

Two unlikely young men charged with desertion and facing execution in the besieged city of Leningrad are charged with an impossible task: they can have their freedom if they can find a dozen eggs for the wedding cake of a powerful colonel's daughter. The two make an odd couple: one a scrawny Jewish outsider, the other an erudite charmer, and their journey takes them from the war-torn city to the snow-covered countryside. Sound like the basis of a classic movie? That might be because the author, David Benioff, is a successful screenwriter, and City of Thieves is halfway between movie-script and roman-a-clef, between airport blockbuster and serious literature.

It's a difficult balancing act, but it succeeds here in no small part due to Ron Perlman's unforgettable narration. His voice is as full of character as his celebrated face, and his bar-room drawl brings a hard-boiled noir quality to the narration. It's a voice dripping in contraband and cordite, easily navigating the Russian names and injecting a sly, seductive humor into the dialogue that offsets the occasional lapse into sentimentality. It's a fantastic performance that succeeds in tying together the disparate elements of this rich tale.

Perlman also takes great relish in conveying the myriad of tiny details that Benioff weaves into the narrative, and which lend a cinematic quality to the work. Indeed, the author's screenwriting background is evident throughout: there's a tightly-constructed plot that never loses a sense of forward propulsion, even during the quieter moments; there is a skilful interweaving of film-school tropes — the buddy movie, the coming-of-age tale, the WWII film. And there's that attention to detail. Although Benioff has clearly done his research, it's the off-beat imagery that brings to life the reality of living in a besieged city: concrete dragon's teeth are arranged to hinder the approach of enemy tanks; leather boots still bloody from the feet of the previous owners; malnourished children's bones break easily.

A slightly superfluous framing narrative alerts us to the novel's more literary aspirations. The art of storytelling is central to this tale, and the narrative brims over with literary references: doomed poets, scabrous novelists, callous propagandists. The picaresque plot recalls A Hero of Our Time, and the main action begins with a German parachutist's corpse drifting down the empty streets, an image halfway between a movie storyboard and Lord of the Flies — just one of many evocative set-pieces in this highly entertaining adventure. —Dafydd Phillips

Publisher's Summary

A writer visits his retired grandparents in Florida to document their experience during the infamous siege of Leningrad. His grandmother won't talk about it, but his grandfather reluctantly consents. The result is the captivating odyssey of two young men trying to survive against desperate odds. Lev Beniov considers himself "built for deprivation." He's small, smart, and insecure, a Jewish virgin too young for the army, who spends his nights working as a volunteer firefighter with friends from his building.

When a dead German paratrooper lands in his street, Lev is caught looting the body and dragged to jail, fearing for his life. He shares his cell with the charismatic and grandiose Kolya, a handsome young soldier arrested on desertion charges. Instead of the standard bullet in the back of the head, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful colonel to use in his daughter's wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt to find the impossible.

A search that takes them through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and the devastated surrounding countryside creates an unlikely bond between this earnest, lust-filled teenager and an endearing lothario with the gifts of a conman.

Set within the monumental events of history, City of Thieves is an intimate coming-of-age tale with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.

©2008 David Benioff; (P)2008 Penguin

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.5 (2337 )
5 star
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4.6 (1528 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Paul East Setauket, NY, United States 04-10-12
    Paul East Setauket, NY, United States 04-10-12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
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    "A modern mythic journey"
    If you could sum up City of Thieves in three words, what would they be?

    marvelous hero's journey


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Kolya. He's the mentor, the life force who enables the hero to cross over into


    What about Ron Perlman’s performance did you like?

    No histrionics just straight out unobtrusive narration.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    It does both. There's the horror of Nazi atrocities, but the irrepressible antics of Kolya.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Greg Littleton, CO, United States 04-09-12
    Greg Littleton, CO, United States 04-09-12 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    24
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Very Good Book"
    What made the experience of listening to City of Thieves the most enjoyable?

    Perlman had great accents. The story was great and from a really interesting perspective.


    What other book might you compare City of Thieves to and why?

    Off the top of my head, I would compare it in some ways to Cormack
    McCarthy's


    Which scene was your favorite?

    It would be a huge spoiler if I said.


    Who was the most memorable character of City of Thieves and why?

    The boy who is the main character.


    Any additional comments?

    Great book - kept me interested throughout.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    LarryD 04-09-12
    LarryD 04-09-12

    PC Larry

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    179
    22
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    5
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    "Awesome!"
    Any additional comments?

    Loved the character development. Never have listened to this aspect of WWll, so also loved the history. Tragic though it was! Highly recommend!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wrenn H. Nicodemo Chapel Hill, NC USA 02-16-12
    Wrenn H. Nicodemo Chapel Hill, NC USA 02-16-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    66
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    119
    15
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Pick this one."

    I was not that interested in this book after I read the plot summary, but I bought it anywya when friend said she liked it. It sat in my itunes library for a couple of months before I finally listened to it.

    However, I was captivated by the story and eventually the narrator (who perfectly fit his character). The novel is really about these two guys, Lev and Kolya; their task to get eggs is only a frame in which to tell their stories. While it is a plot-driven novel, the writing is excellent, and the is story surprisingly funny in places while moving in others. I enjoyed it very much. This is the book that I'm currently recommending to my friends. Also, check out the NY Times' review for a better analysis than mine.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terri Sonoma, CA, United States 12-15-11
    Terri Sonoma, CA, United States 12-15-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    6
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "Very Enlightening"
    What did you love best about City of Thieves?

    A very captivating story. Not a lot goes well for these characters, and it's hard to imagine surviving the difficult times they experienced, but the story was well written, and the narrator captivating. The characters come alive and the story moves along. It's hard to believe so much happens in a 4-5 day period.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of City of Thieves?

    There are several intense and memorable events in the book. It's hard to believe some people can be so evil and inhumane ... the torture inflicted on innocent people, and the dogs carrying bombs are hard to get out of your mind!


    What about Ron Perlman’s performance did you like?

    Ron has such a deep and commanding voice. He gave a different personality to each character, and it was never difficult to know who was speaking.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Definitely a great book that you hate to put down, and can't wait to get back to.


    Any additional comments?

    This book was chosen by a book group member, and I didn't think I would like it. But it was very enlightening. I realized that my generation has never truly endured tough times!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    PS CA USA 12-12-11
    PS CA USA 12-12-11 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    53
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "excellent read"
    What made the experience of listening to City of Thieves the most enjoyable?

    Great story. great characters. really good narration. I rarely give 5 stars but I really enjoyed this book: funny, sad, exciting, quick read.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Los Olivos, United States Minor Outlying Islands 12-08-11
    Laura Los Olivos, United States Minor Outlying Islands 12-08-11 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    28
    10
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    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "Detailed, gripping, beautiful"

    I wish this book were longer than 8 hours. I finished it in two days. It was incredible. The only audiobook I've listened to that actually made me cry. Which is extremely uncommon for me. You will not be disappointed with story or narration.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carolyn Westminster, CO, United States 11-07-11
    Carolyn Westminster, CO, United States 11-07-11

    I read/listen. Constantly. While the hands are busy, it is an esstenial that the mind be as well.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    6
    4
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    1
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    Overall
    Performance
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    "Ron Perlman....Please Read Everything"

    Benioff, you're amazing. I was sucked in by the 3rd paragraph. Perlman, you made all the pieces work.

    The writing and reading was what made this character development novel 'work'. The narrator involves you with the story. The author drags you into situations you don't want to be in, but you love it. I've listen to this twice and every time I find something new. Can't wait for more Benioff.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vivian 10-13-11
    Vivian 10-13-11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    19
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Difficult to listen to"
    What would have made City of Thieves better?

    My biggest problem with the performance of City of Thieves is that the entire story follows two characters, and at multiple dialogues it was almost impossible to understand who was talking since the narration of the voices was so similar.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    King Natick, MA, United States 09-06-11
    King Natick, MA, United States 09-06-11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "great historical fiction"

    I love historical fiction and this was a wonderful simple story with World War I and Russia as its backround. The narrator took some getting used to but by the middle I was all in with the accents. It was every bit as good as enthralling as Pillars of the Earth.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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