A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
“Those words you want to say right now? Don’t say them…And that, my friend, is the secret to living a long life,” the colonel advises 17-year old Lev Beniov. Lev has just risked his life in WWII during the siege of Leningrad to find a dozen eggs for the colonel’s daughter’s wedding–this, in a country so famished pets and pigeons have been consumed and people are eating “library candy” (made from boiling down the binding glue in books for the waxy-tasting protein).
The colonel set this bizarre task for Lev and Kolya, a 20-year old Russian solier, when he judged them guilty of looting and desertion. Until then, they had been languishing in the infamous Crosses prison, anticipating death. When the colonel freed them for this fool’s errand, he confiscated their ration cards, assuring they would return with the eggs or die trying, for a Russian without a ration card in 1941 was a person condemned to starvation. Even with the colonel’s letter of authorization, however, the young men are never far from hunger, extreme cold, sleep deprivation and enemy and friendly fire.
To cope, they forge a friendship, experience love, tell stories and, literally, laugh in the face of death. Humor, in fact, is one of the book’s big selling points, along with history retold so that the reader understands and cares about it and characters that jump off the page into the heart.
Review by Christine