During the siege of Leningrad, 17-year-old Lev Beniov is arrested for looting a dead German soldier. Along with a fellow prisoner, he's tasked with the impossible: finding a dozen eggs. If they don't find these eggs -- to be used in a wedding cake of a Soviet colonel's daughter -- they lose their ration cards. This is the skeleton of the plot of City of Thieves
, a novel by American writer David Benioff, which was recently released in paperback. Purportedly relating to the experiences of Benioff's grandfather during the siege, City of Thieves
has the sophistication of a prototypical Russian novel (but not the length) and a cinematic feel. It also masterfully balances comedy with tragedy and is saturated with a bawdy sexuality that you would never find in, say, something by Tolstoy. Benioff's last novel, The 25th Hour
, was made into a movie that was directed by Spike Lee. So when and if you see City of Thieves
under the heading "Coming Soon," don't be surprised.