In the midst of WWII as the Germans are closing in on Leningrad and several other Russian cities, Lev is taken prisoner by the Soviets for breaking curfew and stealing. To keep his life, he must find a dozen eggs for the colonel, with the help of fellow prisoner Koyla. The story follows the two boys (they’re so young, I can’t call them men) as they make their way across enemy lines to find eggs.
I loved the book for its different look at the war. I don’t believe I’ve ever read about it from the Russian side. The people were starving and wasting away. They couldn’t find bread, let alone anything else good to eat. So, obviously, eggs were nearly impossible to come by. The book is full of action, Koyla is a welcome comic relief, and the boys’ relationship grows more over five days than they probably ever expected. While it’s quite sexually explicit – they are boys, so what else would be on their minds, even in the middle of war? – you can glide over that if necessary.
I thought the book was extremely well written, engaging, quick, realistic and actually sweet in some parts. And to know that it might be based in a lot of truth makes it that much better. Here’s a quote that doesn’t give too much away, but offers a glimpse at the adventure these boys went on:
The days had become a confusion of catastrophes; what seemed impossible in the afternoon was blunt fact by the evening. German corpses fell from the sky; cannibals sold sausage links made from ground human in the Haymarket; apartment blocs collapsed to the ground; dogs became bombs; frozen soldiers became signposts; a partisan with half a face stood swaying in the snow, staring sad-eyed at his killers. I had no food in my belly, no fat on my bones, and no energy to reflect on this parade of atrocities. I just kept moving, hoping to find another half slice of bread for myself and a dozen eggs for the colonel’s daughter.