City of Thieves, and they were right. The novel is based on the author's grandfather's stories of surviving WWII in Russia. It's a stark, frightening picture of survival, but there was something terribly heartwarming about the novel.
It's during the Seige in Leningrad. People are starving, doing anything to survive. Seventeen-year-old Lev Beniov is caught trying to steal from a German paratrooper's dead body. Rather than being executed, he and another young prisoner are charged with what seems to be an impossible task: they must find a dozen eggs for the colonel's daughter's wedding cake. Lev is a shy, articulate son of a famous Russian poet; his unlikely partner is the boisterous, reckless Kolya, an army deserter.
The two take off across the city and through the countryside in search of eggs. People are starving everywhere. Lev and Kolya take incredible risks, but both are so certain that they are going to die, it doesn't seem to matter. The are completely mismatched. Where Lev lacks confidence, Kolya is bold. Where Kolya is rash, Lev is cautious and thoughtful. I liked both of them tremendously.
The story is incredibly heartbreaking but still uplifting. It's a coming of age story for Lev, a war story, and a romance all tied into one tight, beautifully written novel. Highly recommended.