Publisher: Mondadori Libri
An epic wartime drama set in the USSR in 1941 about truth and what it means to be a hero.
Viktor and Nadia are 12-year-old twins. They live in Leningrad and share a diary; Nadia uses black ink, and Viktor red. When war breaks out the children are evacuated from the city before the bombs begin to drop. Nadia is assigned to train number 76, Viktor to train 77. Although separated, their diary entries continue. Viktor arrives at a collective farm in the Ural Mountains, 2000km from home, where he learns Nadia's train has been destroyed. Viktor is convinced she's still alive, believing he has a special connection with her so he'd know if she'd died, and sets out to find his sister. Many adventures await Viktor as the world he knows crashes down around him. Meanwhile Nadia is living in a fortress near Leningrad, trying to defend it from the advancing Germans, waiting for her brother. Little do the two know, but they're going to play a major role in the famous Siege of Leningrad and their diary will be used as evidence against them by the Secret Police, whose notes are scattered throughout the pages.
Here's what our judges had to say:
"The epic historical backdrop never upstages the beating heart of this story, which is the love between a brother and a sister. Many layered, emotional, and yet told with a light touch that has you turning every page with your heart in your mouth. Outstanding." – Candy Gourlay
"Of all the submissions, this is the one I wanted to carry on reading the most. The structure to the novel is thrillingly clever and sure to delight readers, while the voices of the two main characters are extremely well written and really bring to life this important period in history." – Gary Powell
"An exciting and moving story told in diary form by 12 year old twins torn apart from each other and their parents during the Siege of Leningrad in World War 2. With chilling 'annotations' added by some dreaded agency of the Stalinist state the novel is utterly gripping and feels like an authentic, rich and yet accessible account of what it must have been like for children caught up in war with all the resonances that has today." – Elaine McQuade