34—City of Thieves by David Benioff

The story takes place in the winter of 1942 during the Siege of Lenningrad. It is the coldest winter in Russian history. Lev Beniov, a 15 year old half Jewish boy and Kolya, a 19 year old Russian soldier are imprisoned for being out during curfew. The commandant of Lenningrad, instead of having them executed, sends them out on a mission to get a dozen eggs to make a cake for his daughter's wedding. They have seven days.

These two boys are polar opposites. Kolya is handsome, well-educated, worldly, and glib. Lev is large-nosed, not particularly good looking, unsure of himself, and often finds a response to a situation several minutes or hours after the fact. Lev is also a very good chess player.

During their trek, they encounter a band of Russian partisans who help them. They also encounter, after the fact, evidence of horrific Nazi acts. Eventually Lev, Kolya, and Vika, the Russian partisan, are captured by the Germans. The quick-witted Kolya, arranges a chess game between Lev and the Nazi comandant with the ultimate aim of killing him and getting the dozen eggs and then escaping. Their plan works, but not as conceived.

This is a great bit of storytelling and terrific historical fiction.

© Surveyor of the Passing Scene