I cannot remember which reviewer recommended this book, but I want to thank him or her. I am not a war novel person. I would not normally pick up a novel set during the siege of Leningrad, especially one that centered on two male characters. What hooked me was the crazy plot driver–the main character, a very young man caught looting a downed Nazi pilot and a deserter from the Russian army are sent to find a dozen eggs for the spoiled daughter of a military commander to make a cake for her wedding. This task when most of the city is eating library candy, gluey balls of deconstructed library books, and the worst have become cannibals.
Benioff’s portrait of a city under siege, or an occupied country, is so intimate that it was hard to believe he did not live through it. Even better, for me, is how he began the novel–with a young man interviewing his grandfather who, until that point, had refused to speak of the war. War novels that focus on the mechanics of war leave me dry, but war novels that focus on how people find out who they are in the circumstance of war can be something amazing. This is one of those novels.