Title: City of Thieves
Author: David Benioff
Publisher: Viking, May 2008
Summary: David is a screenwriter who has been asked to write an autobiographical essay for a magazine. He feels his life is not interesting enough to write about so he travels to Florida to interview his Russian grandfather about his life during the siege of Leningrad. The interview lasts a week but focuses on one particular week during the siege when David’s grandfather Lev met his future wife, made his best friend, and killed 2 Germans.
Lev Beniov is seventeen and without family in Leningrad. His father was taken away and his mother and sister fled the city before the Germans surrounded it. He has been living in an abandoned building since the siege and he spends his days keeping watch for fires from the rooftop and trying to find enough food and wood to survive. One evening as he is on fire watch, he and his friends spot a German paratrooper falling from the sky. He is obviously already dead, so Lev and his companions find the body and proceed to take everything they can form the dead soldiers pockets. Unfortunately, the police catch Lev and arrest him for looting. While in custody, Lev meets Kolya, a soldier who has been arrested for desertion. The two are spared by the colonel in charge, but only because the colonel has other plans for them. Their ration cards are taken from them and will not be returned until they accomplish this nearly impossible feat: find a dozen eggs for the colonel’s daughter’s wedding cake. Yes, people are starving to death all over the city, but the colonel’s daughter needs 12 eggs for her wedding cake.
Soon after Lev and Kolya set off on this odyssey to find the eggs, they realize they will never find them in city and must travel behind enemy lines if they have any chance of completing this assignment. The story of Lev and Kolya’s struggle to survive and prevail is at times heartwarming and at times heartbreaking. By the end of this book I cared so much for these two characters that it made me sad to finish the book. This is truly one of the best books I’ve read all year.
Who will like this book? Everyone, especially those who like historical fiction.
Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator
Title: Skeletons at the Feast
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Summary: Skeletons at the Feast, the newest novel by Chris Bohjalian, is the story of an aristocratic Prussian family during the final months of World War II. Eighteen year old Anna Emmerich, her younger brother and their mother are desperately trying to reach the American and/or British forces who are advancing from the West. The Russians are advancing from the East and tales of rape, torture and murder by the Russian soldiers have been advancing ahead of them. Traveling with Anna and her family is Callum, a Scottish POW with whom Anna has fallen in love, and Uri, an escaped Jew who has disguised himself as a German soldier.
Throughout their journey, the refugees hear stories of the atrocities committed by their soldiers, and see first-hand the committed by their enemies. The tragedies endured by the innocent people on both sides of the war is heartbreaking. The resilience of the characters throughout the story, to the very end, is amazing. Chris Bohjalian is a wonderful author and a master at character development.
Who will like this book? Anyone who likes historical fiction.
If you like this try: Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator
Author: Hillary Jordan
Summary: Halfway into Hillary Jordan’s debut novel, Mudbound, I knew that she had earned a place on my “Must Read Authors” list. This is a wonderful, beautiful, brutal, tragic, richly painted novel that is worthy of all of its high praise.
It’s the Mississippi Delta in the 1940’s. The story opens as Henry and his brother Jamie are trying desperately to bury the body of a man, their father. Slowly, the reader is drawn into the lives of the six people who set in motion the events that lead to this man’s death. Laura and Henry McCallan are struggling with day-to-day life on a farm; Hap and Florence Jackson, the black sharecroppers who live and work on the McCallans’ farm, must deal with racism and the unforgiving conditions of the labor they face every day. Each family awaits the return of a war hero, and each family is brought to its knees as their wounded veterans come home and try to resume a “normal” life.
Before it was even published, Mudbound was the winner of a literary prize, the Bellwether Prize for Fiction. Barbara Kingsolver, the founder of the award, had this to say of Hillary Jordan: “her characters walked straight out of 1940’s Mississippi and into the part of my brain where sympathy and anger and love reside, leaving my heart racing. They are still with me.”
And they are still with me as well.
Recommended by: Mary, Reference Librarian