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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Review: Skeletons at the Feast

Author: Chris Bohjalian

Pub Date: 2008
Genre: Historical Fiction

From Publishers Weekly

In his 12th novel, Bohjalian (The Double Bind) paints the brutal landscape of Nazi Germany as German refugees struggle westward ahead of the advancing Russian army. Inspired by the unpublished diary of a Prussian woman who fled west in 1945, the novel exhumes the ruin of spirit, flesh and faith that accompanied thousands of such desperate journeys. Prussian aristocrat Rolf Emmerich and his two elder sons are sent into battle, while his wife flees with their other children and a Scottish POW who has been working on their estate. Before long, they meet up with Uri Singer, a Jewish escapee from an Auschwitz-bound train, who becomes the group's protector. In a parallel story line, hundreds of Jewish women shuffle west on a gruesome death march from a concentration camp....Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

My Thoughts:

Each character represents a perspective on WWII. The mother who lived through WWI, considers herself a German, and yet hears the rumours about the atrocities and can't believe German people would do such a thing. A foreign POW who tries to explain the world's view of Germany, but may have some doubts about current events as well. The 18 year old daughter who is naive, has never been outside of her current farming community, and yet knows that what was drilled into her at school (anti-semitism) cannot be quite right. Uri a Jewish man who has lived through these events, and has had to kill or be killed in order to survive. Doesn't exactly like German people, but has admiration, understanding, and feelings for the family he is traveling with.

None of these characters can believe that what is happening in Germany is true, but they know that it is. The things that human beings will do to one another is horrific, but it happens. Not only in the past but today as well, i.e. Darfur. This book describes not only German atrocities but those committed by the advancing Russian army as well. If you are squeamish, I would not recommend this book. However, if you would like to read an eye opening and thought provoking novel, then pick this one. It really made me think about what I would do in this situation. I hope it would be the right thing and that I survive.

I highly recommend this book and will keep Bohjalian on my list of authors to read in the future.

Edit: This is part of the TBR Challenge 2009 hosted by AvidBookReader. So please check some other participants reviews, if you have a chance.


Darlene said...

Great review. I've wanted to read this one for a while. I do like reading books on the war. This one would be perfect for the WWII challenge. I may have to try and fit it in this year.

Jenny Girl said...

Thanks Dar! There were some sad moments too. You could not help but empathize with these characters.

Toni said...

Hi Jenny!
Great review. I do like eye opening. I am a bit squeamish but I guess that is to be expected with this topic. Thank you for an excellent review.

Anonymous said...

You make this one sound beyond good! My wish list keeps growing and growing and!

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