The City of Thieves audiobook, written by David Benioff and read by Ron Perlman, is AMAZING! I might be over-stating this, but I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed an audiobook as much. The plot manages to entertain despite its being somewhat predictable (everyone ends up where you expect them to). It’s the characters, combined with Ron Perlman’s narration and Benioff’s gift for dialogue, which make this book a must-listen.
Of course I’m jumping too far ahead.
Imagine WWII. The Russian city of Stalingrad (nicknamed “Peter” by the locals) is under siege. A young, Jewish boy named Lev Beniov is imprisoned for looting. His cellmate is a handsome, charismatic Russian soldier who has been arrested for desertion. The soldier’s name is Kolya. Both expect to be shot in the morning. Instead they are taken to the home of an important colonel in the Russian army and given an assignment. Locate a dozen eggs in the starving city for a wedding cake. Lev and Kolya have five days. Five days during which they travel through the maze of Peter: into basements, onto rooftops and finally out into the surrounding countryside. They encounter children and cannibals, German and Russian soldiers, Partisans, unlikely allies and unintentional enemies. It’s a grand, if absurd, adventure.
Part-history, part-bromance novel – the high point of City of Thieves is Lev & Kolya’s friendship. The chemistry that exists between these two is magic. Their conversations are hilarious. Lev plays Burns to Kolya’s eccentric Allen (bridge the generation gap here), with Ron Perlman performing both parts with impeccable timing.
The reading of this story should win awards. Perlman’s voices are dead on – each one unique, distinctive & authentic. He has a talent for putting a subtle inflection on a word or a sentence which carries a whole chapter’s worth of meaning. He brings the multitude of characters in this novel (I stopped counting at 15) vividly to life.
At this point in the review I’d like to go on the record as stating that I intend to track down every audiobook narrated by Ron Perlman and listen to them all.
My gold standard test of an audio book is whether or not it makes me want to extend my 60 minute commute. Did City of Thieves pass? Well, let’s just say that I may have received at least one (O.K. – maybe two) texts from my husband asking why I was sitting in the garage. City of Thieves will do more than keep your attention, it will transport you for 8-1/2 hours…and introduce you to two characters who will stay with you for even longer.
Publisher: Penguin Audio, New York (2008).
ISBN: 978 0 14 314347 5