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Skeletons at the Feast

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Skeletons at the Feast PDF, ePub eBook In January 1945, in the waning months of World War II, a small group of people begin the longest journey of their lives: an attempt to cross the remnants of the Third Reich, from Warsaw to the Rhine if necessary, to reach the British and American lines. Among the group is eighteen-year-old Anna Emmerich, the daughter of Prussian aristocrats. There is her lover, Callum Finel In January 1945, in the waning months of World War II, a small group of people begin the longest journey of their lives: an attempt to cross the remnants of the Third Reich, from Warsaw to the Rhine if necessary, to reach the British and American lines. Among the group is eighteen-year-old Anna Emmerich, the daughter of Prussian aristocrats. There is her lover, Callum Finella, a twenty-year-old Scottish prisoner of war who was brought from the stalag to her family’s farm as forced labor. And there is a twenty-six-year-old Wehrmacht corporal, who the pair know as Manfred–who is, in reality, Uri Singer, a Jew from Germany who managed to escape a train bound for Auschwitz. As they work their way west, they encounter a countryside ravaged by war. Their flight will test both Anna’s and Callum’s love, as well as their friendship with Manfred–assuming any of them even survive. Perhaps not since The English Patient has a novel so deftly captured both the power and poignancy of romance and the terror and tragedy of war. Skillfully portraying the flesh and blood of history, Chris Bohjalian has crafted a rich tapestry that puts a face on one of the twentieth century’s greatest tragedies–while creating, perhaps, a masterpiece that will haunt readers for generations.

30 review for Skeletons at the Feast

  1. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Every sentence is worth listening to. Every word. Why read another book about the horror of World War II? Because it teaches us why life is worth living. I would change nothing about this book. Nothing! I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Mark Bramhall. The narration is slow, but it should be slow so you can think about every word, and ponder what those words mean, consider what we think ourselves. Would this happen, this way? Would I react similarly? Could he behave any differently? You ca Every sentence is worth listening to. Every word. Why read another book about the horror of World War II? Because it teaches us why life is worth living. I would change nothing about this book. Nothing! I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Mark Bramhall. The narration is slow, but it should be slow so you can think about every word, and ponder what those words mean, consider what we think ourselves. Would this happen, this way? Would I react similarly? Could he behave any differently? You can see from the book description that this is about a small group of disparate refugees - a German gentile blond haired girl and her mother and brother of ten, an English prisoner of war and a Jew disguised as a German officer – crossing Germany from east to west in the final day of the war. Running from the Russians, the Germans and what fate has in store for them. Each character represents a different cultural / political stamp. Each carries their own baggage. Every action they take is molded by their history and where they come from. And yet each one is a person and that binds them / unites them. And that is why we readers can relate to this book, because we are all people like them. If I say to you - remember The Invisible Bridge. That is a book about the war that everyone loves. Well this is better, by far. There isn’t one unnecessary word in this book. Please read this book. I have no question in my mind whether it deserves five stars. Yes, it does, without a doubt. Beautiful prose, lots to think about, humor, realistic plot line, perfect beginning and ending. Never does it drag, not for one second. Please read this book. Or listen to it. Read it or listen to it soon. Choose it for your very next book! Please. Barbara, you pushed me to read this book. I owe you big time. Thank you!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 0.125* of five GHASTLY. Made me so angry that I got out of my warm bed, got dressed, and drove to the next town to heave this drivel-fest into the local cathedral's charity bin, thus ensuring that only some Catholic would be subjected to it. Their happiness I don't care about protecting. The finger-in-the-chest, accusatory "You ride your horse over the Jew" (paraphrase, not a quote) section made me so furiously angry that I scared the dog yelling at the book. If you're a little slow on the Rating: 0.125* of five GHASTLY. Made me so angry that I got out of my warm bed, got dressed, and drove to the next town to heave this drivel-fest into the local cathedral's charity bin, thus ensuring that only some Catholic would be subjected to it. Their happiness I don't care about protecting. The finger-in-the-chest, accusatory "You ride your horse over the Jew" (paraphrase, not a quote) section made me so furiously angry that I scared the dog yelling at the book. If you're a little slow on the uptake, I*do*not*recommend*this*book. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dem

    There have been many books focusing on the Holocaust and World War Two, and Chris Bohjalian sets himself quite a task when he set out to write the story (based in part by a personal diary ) set in the waning months of World War two. But this story is told in a different manner to many of the fictionalised books out there as the author takes on the difficult task of telling this story from many points of view. A Prussian family, a Scottish POW assigned to work on their farm, and a Jew disguised There have been many books focusing on the Holocaust and World War Two, and Chris Bohjalian sets himself quite a task when he set out to write the story (based in part by a personal diary ) set in the waning months of World War two. But this story is told in a different manner to many of the fictionalised books out there as the author takes on the difficult task of telling this story from many points of view. A Prussian family, a Scottish POW assigned to work on their farm, and a Jew disguised as a Third Reich soldier attempt to escape and try to stay well ahead of the fast-approaching Soviet army. Tales of atrocities to which the Soviet army has subjected their prisoners is enough to force the group on their way west through a countryside ravaged by war. The novel also tells the story of Cecile a Jewish woman captured in her homeland of France and sent to a forced labour camp. I have read quite a few books on the second world war and on the Holocaust and they always shock and sadden me and make me question how human beings can inflict such pain and horrors on each other in the name of war and while this is a difficult book to read as the author does not spare us any of the horrors, it is an good historical novel. The plot for this Novel is haunting and quite a page turner, this is really a character driven novel and the characters are so engaging that they will stay with you long after you put down the novel. An emotional book that will shock and sadden even the most hardened reader. While this is a story of love in the time of war the horrors of war far outweigh the love story. This is only the second novel I have read by Chris Bohjalian and I will be adding more books by this author to my list. Quote "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that" Quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Libby

    In ‘Skeletons at the Feast,’ Chris Bohjalian writes a raw and brutal account of a trek across what remains of Hitler’s Third Reich, of individuals fleeing the invading Russian army ‘Ivan’ and headed for the hopefully more merciful British and American troops. Most significant and meaningful to me is the range of different character POVs that Bohjalian brings into this account. First there is Anna, eighteen-year-old daughter of Rolf and Irmgard ‘Mutti’ Emmerich. Although her parents are farmers, In ‘Skeletons at the Feast,’ Chris Bohjalian writes a raw and brutal account of a trek across what remains of Hitler’s Third Reich, of individuals fleeing the invading Russian army ‘Ivan’ and headed for the hopefully more merciful British and American troops. Most significant and meaningful to me is the range of different character POVs that Bohjalian brings into this account. First there is Anna, eighteen-year-old daughter of Rolf and Irmgard ‘Mutti’ Emmerich. Although her parents are farmers, Anna has led an aristocrat’s privileged life. Rolf and Mutti are members of the Nazi party and Mutti has embraced the führer entirely, to the point of almost having a crush on the man. Rolf seems to understand a little better that Germany is coming down on the wrong side of things. Secondly, there is Callum Finella, 20 years old, a Scotsman with ginger hair taken as a POW after a parachute jump, his first foray as a soldier. Callum never even got off a single shot before his capture. Sent to work on the Emmerich’s farm, he becomes Anna’s secret lover. Thirdly, there is Uri Singer, a Jew who jumps from a train bound for Auschwitz and hides in plain sight, taking on the identity of various German soldiers by killing them or taking uniforms from their dead bodies. For the entirety of the novel, we will feel Uri's grief for his sister, Rebekah; he doesn't know what happened to her and thinks she's probably dead. If those are the main characters, let me just say, Bohjalian’s secondary characters are so riveting that it’s difficult to separate them from primary characters. Lending an essential and for me, almost spiritual essence to the story is Anna’s young brother, Theo. Ten-year-old Theo likes to sing and ride horses and can run very fast. However, Theo knows he’s different from his older brothers, Helmut and Werner. For one, he doesn’t like the marching songs. He prefers the old ballads. For another, he’s not popular in school like his brothers were. Callum reassures the boy that he can be proud of being just exactly who he is. Seeing the war unfold from Theo’s perspective is a ripping away of childhood innocence. Another perspective, Cecile is a Jewess, twenty-three years old, from Lyon, where she had a fiancé. Now she’s in a work camp and the most she has going for her is her fiancé’s hiking boots. In this environment, where the prisoners are given clogs, those boots are no small thing. From Celcile’s perspective, we learn of the cruelty and indifference of the German guards. As the Russian troops advance, the guards force the prisoners on the road in January and February’s cold and snow. Bohjalian very effectively conveys the threatening aspects of war. Anna and Theo, as well as Mutti, have always lived in a protected world. Even though they had some Jewish friends, they seemed not to realize the actuality of what was happening. Now, as they flee toward the west, they see the grievous results of the German war machine and eventually the inhumanity of what is done to the Jews. Mutti has always been primarily mother, caretaker; I was interested to see her awakening to this nightmarish reality. As Rolf and Helmut try to get Uncle Karl to flee with the rest of the family, he’s drinking in the middle of the day in his dressing gown and says, “we’re just skeletons at the feast.” A skeleton is an already dead thing is what Karl seems to be saying, our lives as we knew them are already dead. A pessimistic attitude, for sure, but one that suits what was happening in Germany. The Third Reich was in its death throes (thank goodness). In the middle of all that ugliness, there was still hope to be found, an end to the nightmare.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    5 SOLID [image error] Exceptional. This book has left me kind of speechless. I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out how to review it. It is a book I will never forget. It will be right up there with my favorite books EVER. It is very sad. It is horrifying at times. But in the end, it left me with a feeling of awe for the human soul and what is can endure in the face of unspeakable suffering. The plot summary below was taken from Wiki… but put it all together better than I could. [image error] 5 SOLID [image error] Exceptional. This book has left me kind of speechless. I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out how to review it. It is a book I will never forget. It will be right up there with my favorite books EVER. It is very sad. It is horrifying at times. But in the end, it left me with a feeling of awe for the human soul and what is can endure in the face of unspeakable suffering. The plot summary below was taken from Wiki… but put it all together better than I could. [image error] The plot of the story centers around a young Prussian girl, Anna Emmerich, and the broken remnants of her family as they flee westward from the advancing Russian army. Along with them they bring the Scottish POW, Callum Finella, with whom Anna has embarked on a secret love affair. As Anna, her mother, her younger brother Theo, and Callum trek across the Third Reich, other stories run parallel to theirs. [image error] There is the story of Uri Singer, a Jew that leapt off the train to Auschwitz and survives by assuming identities belonging to various German soldiers. [image error] And then there is Cecile Fournier, a French Jew taken prisoner in a concentration camp and, along with her fellow prisoners, forced to march westward to outdistance the Russian advance. [image error] Eventually all three stories come together when Anna's party, joined by Uri, crosses paths with the sad march of Cecile and the other prisoners. Throughout the novel, Anna struggles with the ideas of the atrocities the Nazis have committed and how she can possibly bear the burden of blame by the rest of the world. *** Cecile to Uri: ”I thought we were all going to die.” “You and all the other prisoners?” “No. The Jews. All of us. I tried to keep my hopes up, but these last weeks. . . it was gone, all gone. I thought they were going to exterminate us all.” “I thought so too. There were times when I wondered if I was the only one left.” She offered him the smallest of smiles. “Your name should be Adam.” He chuckled, but the sound was rueful and she thought he was just being polite. “No, not me,” he said. “I am not the beginning of anything. If anything, I am the end of everything.” The characters in the story were so real to me that at times I felt like I was right there with them. Experiencing their pain, their grief, their hunger.. their hopelessness. I know this is a heavy subject to read about, and it is not usually my go to book for pleasure. But this is that book that EVERYONE should read at least once in their lifetime. We all need to be reminded… not only of what these people went through, but also of what we all take for granted. It baffles the mind how incredibly evil some humans can be.  And on the other hand, it is amazing how resilient and strong the human soul can be.  How is it that some individuals crumble and collapse at the most insignificant trivialities, and others defy unfathomable atrocities and find ways to survive. Sometimes I think that if there weren’t people left alive to tell their stories, or horrific photos documenting the unspeakable truths, it would be hard to believe these things could have ever happened. [image error] “She didn't care so much whether the world would ever forgive her people; but she did hope that someday, somehow, she would be able to forgive herself.”

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Bohjalian ventures into the milieu of World War II Germany and tells the story of Anna Emmerich, a German girl living on the edge of Poland and her German family, who are Nazi party members. These are rural German's who are oblivious to the atrocities and turn a blind eye to the disappearances of people around them to relocation. It is the last days of the war, and the family is forced to flee before the oncoming Russian army. Accompanying them is a Scottish POW named Callum Finella who is given Bohjalian ventures into the milieu of World War II Germany and tells the story of Anna Emmerich, a German girl living on the edge of Poland and her German family, who are Nazi party members. These are rural German's who are oblivious to the atrocities and turn a blind eye to the disappearances of people around them to relocation. It is the last days of the war, and the family is forced to flee before the oncoming Russian army. Accompanying them is a Scottish POW named Callum Finella who is given to her family to help work the farm, and a Jewish man, Uri Singer, who escapes the Nazi's by cleverly posing as one of them. The story is unusual in being told from the point of view of the Germans (although this is the second such book I have read recently and not through any design to do so). Perhaps the tales of the Allies and those of the Holocaust victims have been exhausted and at this remove we can be more open to the stories of how the insanity of Nazi Germany affected everyday Germans. The story is told masterfully, without any feeling that anything included is unnecessary or left out. Bohjalian amazes me with his ability to tell stories from so many different eras, with such disparate characters and yet to always seem knowledgeable and at home with his subjects. Stories such as this must always be told, lest we forget how devastating such a war can be and to help us remember that even among the monsters there are people who are just caught up in the circumstances created by others.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Davney Stahley

    One of the few WWII books I've read that is told from the German viewpoint. The brutality is frightening even after all these years. I remember my German Oma had nothing but bad to say about Adolph Hitler. She still had family in Germany in the 50s and they didn't have anything good to say about him. I also had a friend in WI who was in her 70s and had been a Hitler youth. It was interesting to talk with her about how they never questioned and how the whole "Jewish situation" was not believed by One of the few WWII books I've read that is told from the German viewpoint. The brutality is frightening even after all these years. I remember my German Oma had nothing but bad to say about Adolph Hitler. She still had family in Germany in the 50s and they didn't have anything good to say about him. I also had a friend in WI who was in her 70s and had been a Hitler youth. It was interesting to talk with her about how they never questioned and how the whole "Jewish situation" was not believed by so many for so long. Denial. I grimace at some of the descriptions, but I am reading this book with interest. Finished late last night again. Mutti (the mother) is an interesting character. She believed in the Fuhrer, even had a crush on him, and Bohjalian's descriptions of her disillusionment and heartbreak as she learns the truths are real. To believe so trustingly in your government and leader and learn the horrific truth must have been devastating and horrible for the many good German people. Uri is a complex character, strong, conflicted, yet focused. I loved Theo and could just see his little earnest trusting face, becoming more confused and yet knowing as the family traveled further west. Excellent read!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Allison (The Allure of Books)

    I can handle reading a lot of fantasy violence and torture, because, no matter how connected to the characters I am-I know on some level as I’m reading that it did NOT happen. So, when I picked up Skeletons I knew that would be different, and I was right. Even the smallest acts of cruelty in this book twisted my guts because I know that what the Jews went through during the Holocaust is absolute reality. Just thinking about it makes me feel sick. So, in a way, this book was the opposite of fanta I can handle reading a lot of fantasy violence and torture, because, no matter how connected to the characters I am-I know on some level as I’m reading that it did NOT happen. So, when I picked up Skeletons I knew that would be different, and I was right. Even the smallest acts of cruelty in this book twisted my guts because I know that what the Jews went through during the Holocaust is absolute reality. Just thinking about it makes me feel sick. So, in a way, this book was the opposite of fantasy-seeing how the various characters in their different situations dealt with the war is what connected me to them. There was a German family fleeing from the Russians and a Scottish POW traveling with them, a young Jewish woman in a work camp, and a Jewish man disguising himself (usually) as a German soldier. I feel like I went on a real journey with these characters and the end of the story was brilliant and heartbreaking, as a true war novel should be.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    5 ☆ A bittersweet story not just about love, this story is so MUCH more than that.. “I thought we were all going to die” You and all the other prisoners? “No. The Jews. All of us. I tried to keep my hopes up but these last weeks.. it was gone all gone. I thought they were going to exterminate us all.” The characters felt as real as if I were right there experiencing their pain with them. Each one of their stories touched on all of my senses. I felt so much compassion for the characters that it liter 5 ☆ A bittersweet story not just about love, this story is so MUCH more than that.. “I thought we were all going to die” You and all the other prisoners? “No. The Jews. All of us. I tried to keep my hopes up but these last weeks.. it was gone all gone. I thought they were going to exterminate us all.” The characters felt as real as if I were right there experiencing their pain with them. Each one of their stories touched on all of my senses. I felt so much compassion for the characters that it literally tore my heart up. This is a very special book and I applaud Chris Bohjalian on the extensive research + hard work it took to write this very endearing book. Highly recommend! ❤️

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    Skeletons at the Feast took me to a dark place - the Holocaust. If there weren't so many great books written about this black mark of the world's history, I would ban myself from reading any books on this topic in the future. I hate that such a horrific occurrence is repeatedly used as bait for novelists. Bohjalian is a good author, though, and does a good job developing his characters, giving them interesting conflict, all the while threading bits of real history into his story that he obtained Skeletons at the Feast took me to a dark place - the Holocaust. If there weren't so many great books written about this black mark of the world's history, I would ban myself from reading any books on this topic in the future. I hate that such a horrific occurrence is repeatedly used as bait for novelists. Bohjalian is a good author, though, and does a good job developing his characters, giving them interesting conflict, all the while threading bits of real history into his story that he obtained through diligent research. I'll give him credit for all of the above. However, part of me felt like Bohjalian decided this was going to be his one and only time to write about the Holocaust so he was going to put it all in one book. The details he gives about the atrocities committed by the German soldiers, the Russian soldiers and the desperate and destroyed left in their wake is so graphic, so skin-crawling brutal that it borders on gratuitous. Including as much as he does has the opposite effect from the one I imagine the author intended and his book almost becomes a WWII caricature. I'm not saying the things he describes didn't happen. No, he seems to have read enough journals and letters to give each horror story credibility, but to include them all -- in the same book, witnessed by the same characters in the space of about a year -- it made these disturbing acts of cruelty seem made-up. I feel it was a disservice to take someone's real life nightmare and diminish it by setting it alongside so many other nightmares so that they all seem somehow....less. Because that is what happens. The first description was like a punch in the stomach, the next a slap on the face and all the rest...swats on an already numb backside. As much as I wanted to, I didn't dislike this book. Bojahlian creates a complicated story about the fallout from ignorance, naivety, and privilege found among the rural aristocrats of Poland and Germany near the end of the war. Not forced to witness the daily disappearance of Jews and other minorities, the Emmerilich family was living in relative peace and prosperity, along with their polite relationships with the POWs helping out on their beet farm, until the ugly consequnces of their fuhrer's decisions found their way to the family's country manor, Kamenheim. Anna, The Emmerlich's teenage daughter, falls in love with Callum, a scottish POW, and convinces her parents to allow him to remain with their family instead of sending him back to the prison camps. As Callum and the Emmerlichs flee the approaching Russian troops, the blinders of this family's eyes are removed and they finally see first hand the destruction throughout their land. Along their west-bound journey, they meet and become dependent upon Uri, a young, vigilante Jew posing as a German soldier in order to survive. There is an additional, competely separate story involving a french, Jewish girl named Cecile who is trying to keep herself and her friend, Jeanne, alive while prisoners in a concentration camp that does eventually intersect with Uri and the Emmerlichs but not soon enough to be satisfying There are plenty of lessons to learn within the pages of this book, but I can't say that it is one I recommend. The author tries to write too many stories at once-- a romance, a look at Nazi sympathizers, stereotypes the Polish people had of Russians, allied prisoners of war, a coming of age story, the gore and sadism of war, Jewish resistance, Jewish survival and an unnecessary epilogue, to make this novel truly great.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    Skeletons at the Feast is a powerful story, original and beautiful yet deeply poignant all at once, as it's set smack-dab in the beginning of WWII.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Crystal Craig

    Skeletons at the Feast was my second Chris Bohjalian novel. I enjoyed it far more than I did The Night Strangers, which was the first book I read written by him. The novel was one of the four group reads voted in for the month of April in my book club, Sweeter Reads. Yes, I know, I'm a little ahead of the game, but I'm going to be away the latter part of March; I'll be at the farm while our animals give birth. It's a very busy time, and I may not be able to get much reading done. The main thing Skeletons at the Feast was my second Chris Bohjalian novel. I enjoyed it far more than I did The Night Strangers, which was the first book I read written by him. The novel was one of the four group reads voted in for the month of April in my book club, Sweeter Reads. Yes, I know, I'm a little ahead of the game, but I'm going to be away the latter part of March; I'll be at the farm while our animals give birth. It's a very busy time, and I may not be able to get much reading done. The main thing that drew me to the book was the title. It's just one of those titles that scream in your face. So, what did I think? While, other than the slightly slow start, it was a great book. I sure wasn't disappointed. It's the sort of book that opens a person's eyes wide to the horrors of war. My favorite characters were Mutti and Theo. I admired Mutti for her strength and Theo for his bravery. He was such an innocent little boy with such a love for animals. It was heart-breaking when he had to leave his favorite horse behind. The only problem I had with the novel was it's odd structure in the first fifty pages or so... hence the slow start. It seemed to lack punctuation so the sentences went on forever, which made it hard to read. I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. I gave it a solid four stars.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Branwen *of House Targaryen*

    "You forget pain. We all do. We tell ourselves that we remember the specifics, but its all just a lot of pictures and words in our heads. No sensations. I think we actually remember life's humiliations better. The degradations. The cruelties. But the pain? We seem to forget what pain actually feels like. It's like a cloud after the sky has cleared." In 1945, as World War II is in its dying throes, a group of people cross Germany fleeing the incoming Russians in an attempt to reach safety in the B "You forget pain. We all do. We tell ourselves that we remember the specifics, but its all just a lot of pictures and words in our heads. No sensations. I think we actually remember life's humiliations better. The degradations. The cruelties. But the pain? We seem to forget what pain actually feels like. It's like a cloud after the sky has cleared." In 1945, as World War II is in its dying throes, a group of people cross Germany fleeing the incoming Russians in an attempt to reach safety in the British and American lines. Among them is German Anna and her Scottish lover, Callum, along with Uri who is secretly a Jew who escaped an Auschwitz bound train. As they travel, the bond between the three deepens to unexpected levels as they battle the terror and cruelty of a war strewn country. Hot damn, was this a beautiful yet heartbreaking book. On one hand, witnessing the relationship between Anna and Callum was and the friendship between the three companions was intensely satisfying and wonderful. On the other hand, this story also brutally details the fear and horror of what it meant to live through that time period. I felt as if my heart was on this crazy roller coaster of emotions! It was a heart pounding book, even in it's quiet moments. It brings such a human aspect of the war, to see these people struggle and survive against all odds. All in all, a wonderful and very enjoyable book!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    Based on real diaries, this is a fascinating subject, but mishandled. Bohjalian seemed to be trying to hit readers over the head with the horrors of WWII.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Emilie

    Blech. I have heard such good things about Chris Bohjalian, but I must say I was deeply disappointed. This book was based loosely on an actual journal kept by a German woman who fled the Russians as they swept into Germany at the end of World War II. The plot had such great potential! So many issues though. 1. The character development was stale. The characters didn't change over the course of the novel, even in the face of life-changing circumstances (loss of loved ones; leaving one's home behin Blech. I have heard such good things about Chris Bohjalian, but I must say I was deeply disappointed. This book was based loosely on an actual journal kept by a German woman who fled the Russians as they swept into Germany at the end of World War II. The plot had such great potential! So many issues though. 1. The character development was stale. The characters didn't change over the course of the novel, even in the face of life-changing circumstances (loss of loved ones; leaving one's home behind never to see it again; a difficult, dangerous journey over several months, political upheaval...). These are all things that change a person, but somehow the characters here seemed to arrive at the end of the novel in exactly the same way that they started. Why did we not see more evidence of the guilt that Anna and Mutti MUST have been feeling? Why was there less exploration of Uri's search for his family and the way that changed him? What about Callum, didn't HE feel guilty? He did basically desert his unit, and he did manage to escape actually having to engage in conflict. 2. Unecessarily graphic violence much? I think we all get that the Holocaust was a terrible time in history- people endured horrible, horrible things. Do we have to hear the intricate details of brains being spilled out or inhuman brutality? The details were a little over the top and didn't seem to add to the story enough to make them useful. 3. Weird sex scenes. So they've been marching for months, Anna is exhausted beyond words. She finally gets to sleep in a bed with blankets for the first time in recent memory. You could almost feel how warm and comforted she felt. Then Callum wakes her up in the middle of the night so they can see the Northern Lights, when they (naturally!) have sex. Outside in the frigid cold. When she is recovering from pneumonia or whatever it was she had. When he is an enemy soldier that could be shot if caught out in the open. Sounds plausible to me! And comfortable. Don't bother with this one. I hear Bohjalian's other books are good. Hopefully they are better than this one.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ram

    A Jew, a Scot and a German girl walk into the east part of Germany during the last weeks of WW2. …… No this is not the beginning of a joke, this is the plot of the book. The three main characters of the book, a German Jew pretending to be Aryan, a German teenager running from the advancing Russian army and her Scottish POW lover find themselves all advancing west through the crumbling third Reich in an effort to reach the area that will be occupied by the western armies (and not the Russians). Dur A Jew, a Scot and a German girl walk into the east part of Germany during the last weeks of WW2. …… No this is not the beginning of a joke, this is the plot of the book. The three main characters of the book, a German Jew pretending to be Aryan, a German teenager running from the advancing Russian army and her Scottish POW lover find themselves all advancing west through the crumbling third Reich in an effort to reach the area that will be occupied by the western armies (and not the Russians). During this journey we are exposed to the ugly side of the war, both by the invading Russians (mostly as revenge for what the Germans did in Russia) and by the Germans….mainly what they did to the Jews in the camps and during the death march. We are acquainted with Uri Singer, a German Jew, and how he managed to survive the war impersonating Nazi soldiers that he killed. We follow Anna, an ethnic German from around Warsaw and her lover , Cullum a POW who worked at her parents farm as a forced laborer. The story is interesting and realistic. Makes you think a bit about morals and who to identify with. A nice read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Virginia

    Bohjalian got me with this one, as he has in the two other books of his I've read. It took me about 1/4 of the way into it to get hooked, but I stayed up until 1 am last night reading it. His writing is really quite nice, possibly underrated. His storytelling is incredibly compelling. There are several stories woven together in this book, the main being the plight of an aristocratic Prussian family forced to march west in the waning months of WWII. The horrors and atrocities of the war are on ful Bohjalian got me with this one, as he has in the two other books of his I've read. It took me about 1/4 of the way into it to get hooked, but I stayed up until 1 am last night reading it. His writing is really quite nice, possibly underrated. His storytelling is incredibly compelling. There are several stories woven together in this book, the main being the plight of an aristocratic Prussian family forced to march west in the waning months of WWII. The horrors and atrocities of the war are on full display -- almost, but somehow not quite, unbearable to read about. The storyline about Anna and her family's slog west was the more bearable narrative to me. They had an ostensible destination -- maybe not just one precise destination, but you knew they were heading west ... ahead of the Russian onslaught (if, at times, barely). Cecile's character's experience was so hard for me to stomach ... she never knew where she was going. She had no known destination -- so much despair (even though she was remarkable in the face of it). Really good read, really good reminder.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    this audio book has me running back to the car to take a drive... anywhere, anytime, just any opportunity to listen to more. It is a saga about a handful of people trying to get west from the ever encroaching Russians on the Eastern Front in Poland/Prussia at the end of WWII. You have the aristocratic Prussian family, sans menfolk, the Scottish POW who has worked for them as slave labor, the jew disguised as a German Officer in order to escape arrest and inevitable death, and you have the women this audio book has me running back to the car to take a drive... anywhere, anytime, just any opportunity to listen to more. It is a saga about a handful of people trying to get west from the ever encroaching Russians on the Eastern Front in Poland/Prussia at the end of WWII. You have the aristocratic Prussian family, sans menfolk, the Scottish POW who has worked for them as slave labor, the jew disguised as a German Officer in order to escape arrest and inevitable death, and you have the women garment workers from the forced labor camp, being forced to trek west away from the terrifying stories of the Russian army, where, perhaps, maybe, they will be put to work again in another factory somewhere in a crumbling Germany. All of them swept up in a tide of thousands of refugees stumbling, starving, fighting, naive, wise, dying, & surviving as they struggle West. A powerful and gripping book and I am completely swept up in the harsh, difficult and brutal refugee reality. The conclusion of course, can only be, that everywhere, in every situation, war is such a shitty shitty thing... with vicitms from all walks of life, from all sides of the conflict, German, Jewish, Prussian, Allied...Union, Confederate, Palestinian, Afghani, Iraqi, Kurd, Hutu/Tutsi.....

  19. 4 out of 5

    Phyllis

    This is the fourth book by Chris Bohjalian that I have read and it is my favorite. It's WWII in Germany and The story follows a German family, a Jewish woman going from work camp to work camp, a Jewish man who jumps off a train and hides out as a German soldier, and a POW from Scotland living with the German family. It's nearing the end of the war and the Russians are advancing from the east and the British and Americans are advancing from the west and thousands of refugees are on the move. Chri This is the fourth book by Chris Bohjalian that I have read and it is my favorite. It's WWII in Germany and The story follows a German family, a Jewish woman going from work camp to work camp, a Jewish man who jumps off a train and hides out as a German soldier, and a POW from Scotland living with the German family. It's nearing the end of the war and the Russians are advancing from the east and the British and Americans are advancing from the west and thousands of refugees are on the move. Chris Bohjalian first got the idea for this book from a German woman's diary. It is beautifully written, heartbreaking, horrifying at times and had an ending that I wasn't expecting. Very highly recommended.

  20. 4 out of 5

    ☮Karen

    This was hard to put down even during the very graphic scenes of death and violence. I fell in love with all the characters and how they dealt with their predicaments. There was an interesting perspective given on the whys and wherefores of the Russian army's treatment of the Germans--that the Germans simply had asked for it. Not to over-simplify things, but, yes, the Russians were barbarians, but so were the Germans. Then the English were accused of the same when they bombed the crap out of Dre This was hard to put down even during the very graphic scenes of death and violence. I fell in love with all the characters and how they dealt with their predicaments. There was an interesting perspective given on the whys and wherefores of the Russian army's treatment of the Germans--that the Germans simply had asked for it. Not to over-simplify things, but, yes, the Russians were barbarians, but so were the Germans. Then the English were accused of the same when they bombed the crap out of Dresden. And so you fight barbarism with barbarism. But is that the best way? It makes me wonder, and a book that makes me stop and think, or stop and cry a couple times--and Skeletons did--deserves 5 stars.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    A heartbreaking story of the holocaust told from the perspective of a kind German family fleeing the Russians with their Scottish POW Callum whom their daughter Anna loves. I soon found myself adoring young Theo and the strength of his mother "Mutti" as well as the disguised Jewish man Uri who helps them in their struggle to survive.As in other books of the holocaust that I have read, the plight of the Jewish people is horrific and often graphic in Bohjalian's novel, but I enjoyed the book espec A heartbreaking story of the holocaust told from the perspective of a kind German family fleeing the Russians with their Scottish POW Callum whom their daughter Anna loves. I soon found myself adoring young Theo and the strength of his mother "Mutti" as well as the disguised Jewish man Uri who helps them in their struggle to survive.As in other books of the holocaust that I have read, the plight of the Jewish people is horrific and often graphic in Bohjalian's novel, but I enjoyed the book especially the little surprise at the end!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Magen

    This book is very average. I was annoyed with his writting style of frequently interrupting sentences with dashes/breaks, adding in an afterthought or additional information. The interruptions sometimes were so long I had to re-read the sentence to remember the original thought. I felt like it was very choppy, with the "---" (dashes/breaks) being overused. I also needed to re-read sections because it was not entirely clear which character's thoughts I was reading. As far as the story's violence This book is very average. I was annoyed with his writting style of frequently interrupting sentences with dashes/breaks, adding in an afterthought or additional information. The interruptions sometimes were so long I had to re-read the sentence to remember the original thought. I felt like it was very choppy, with the "---" (dashes/breaks) being overused. I also needed to re-read sections because it was not entirely clear which character's thoughts I was reading. As far as the story's violence goes, it was, as other people wrote, over the top. I felt like he was going for shock value rather than telling a story. I have read a handful of other books set during this time period that were able to express the tragic and brutal violence, without leaving me feel numb. His characters were not very well developed, which coupled with the in-your-face savagery, left me not caring very much for the character's well being. The end of the book, I felt was rushed. As with other books that rush the ending, it seems the author is tired of writting the story and just wants to be done. Overall, it was a fast read and mildly entertaining. I am glad I checked this out at the library, rather than spending the money on purchasing it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Chris Bohjalian always manages to transport his readers back to the time period in which he is writing. Through vivid details, we see the bombs as they descend, feel the hunger in our bellies, and hear our own heartbeats beating rapidly in an effort to flee the Russians. Despite the quotations on the book, this is not a ROMANCE and there is nothing sensual about it. Bohjalian unwraps the horrors of the war and he doesn't turn away no matter that the reader might. As much as I enjoyed the writin Chris Bohjalian always manages to transport his readers back to the time period in which he is writing. Through vivid details, we see the bombs as they descend, feel the hunger in our bellies, and hear our own heartbeats beating rapidly in an effort to flee the Russians. Despite the quotations on the book, this is not a ROMANCE and there is nothing sensual about it. Bohjalian unwraps the horrors of the war and he doesn't turn away no matter that the reader might. As much as I enjoyed the writing, I didn't really like the characters of Anna and Callum. I much preferred Mutti and Manfred as I felt that they were stronger characters.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alena

    Chris Bohjalian is a master of getting inside the heads of his characters. This WWII novel feels very much like fist-person accounts of the final year of the war in Prussia/Germany. We get the picture from the perspectives of German refugees fleeing the Russians, a Scottish POW traveling with them, a Jewish man masquerading as a soldier and a Jewish woman in a work/death camp. Much of the story is gruesome and all of it is tragic, but there's enough heart and humanity to keep readers engaged. Bo Chris Bohjalian is a master of getting inside the heads of his characters. This WWII novel feels very much like fist-person accounts of the final year of the war in Prussia/Germany. We get the picture from the perspectives of German refugees fleeing the Russians, a Scottish POW traveling with them, a Jewish man masquerading as a soldier and a Jewish woman in a work/death camp. Much of the story is gruesome and all of it is tragic, but there's enough heart and humanity to keep readers engaged. Bohjalian is. A terrific story teller. Read alikes: All the Light We Cannot See Suite Francais

  25. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Amazing story!!! Excellent writing!!! I loved every moment of this book. Chris Bohjalian brought to life, in vivid reality, this horrific period of history that is still so unimaginable; it's still so unbelievable that these atrocities actually happened. Through the various character's eyes the reader was able to experience the emotions during this time period. From death to life, despair to hope, grief to love, hatred to kindness. My favorite book this year... a must-read!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Candice

    This was a fantastic book - another look at World War II and the Holocaust. This time frame is toward the end of the war, when it has become obvious that Germany will lose, and as the Soviet forces are moving westward. There are basically three stories that come together. A family of well-to-do German farmers, the Emmerichs, living in what was then the western part of Poland, leaves their comfortable farm just ahead of the Soviet tanks and seeks refuge with the Allies. With them is a Scottish pri This was a fantastic book - another look at World War II and the Holocaust. This time frame is toward the end of the war, when it has become obvious that Germany will lose, and as the Soviet forces are moving westward. There are basically three stories that come together. A family of well-to-do German farmers, the Emmerichs, living in what was then the western part of Poland, leaves their comfortable farm just ahead of the Soviet tanks and seeks refuge with the Allies. With them is a Scottish prisoner of war, Callum Finella, whom the Germans allowed to work on the Emmerichs' farm. Uri Singer, a Jew known by various aliases, has escaped from a train heading to Auschwitz and lives by his wits, doing things he never would have thought he would ever do. A group of female concentration camp inmates is herded on a forced march from the camp toward the west to work in factories that will aid the Reich. It is a horrible trek with cruelty and privation. Some parts of the book are unbearably cruel. When I came to the first passage that illustrated the inhumanity of the human race, I asked myself, "Why did he have to put that in?" And then I said, "You idiot! Because things like this happened!" No matter how many books, fiction and non-fiction, that I read about the Holocaust, I continue to be saddened by how cruel and hateful people are capable of becoming. When I read the part about the women in the concentration camp, I was reminded of Gerda Weissmann Klein's book All But My Life. Then I got to the acknowledgements at the end and I found that the author had read and been moved by that book. I hope that Mr. Bohjalian has had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Klein and to hear her speak. I was lucky enough to meet her and was impressed with her message of hope in the human race, despite what she endured during the War. The ending of the book was satisfying. Rather than give anything away, I will say that books about the Holocaust rarely give "happy" endings. But like in real life, we learned what became of some of the characters, but not all. While some might find that frustrating, remember that in war there are people that disappear and we never know what happened. I have read almost all of Chris Bohjalian's books now, and I am never disappointed. His characters are believable, his story lines interesting, his descriptions vivid, and his research thorough. Another excellent book from this author!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marialyce

    It never ceases to amaze me that every time I read a book about the Nazi atrocities, I come away thinking how could they? It boggles one's mind to think about the cruelties, the inhumanity, and the vicious hatred extended to the Jews and other cultures by the Nazis. In this historical fiction novel we meet a number of characters who embody courage and the will to live and move forward in a world of insanity and overall sadness. Beginning a journey, a small group of people rush away from the oncom It never ceases to amaze me that every time I read a book about the Nazi atrocities, I come away thinking how could they? It boggles one's mind to think about the cruelties, the inhumanity, and the vicious hatred extended to the Jews and other cultures by the Nazis. In this historical fiction novel we meet a number of characters who embody courage and the will to live and move forward in a world of insanity and overall sadness. Beginning a journey, a small group of people rush away from the oncoming Russian armies and band together to try to find escape and solace in the Allied lines. The main character, Anna, is an eighteen year old daughter of Prussian aristocrats who falls in love with a Scottish POW named Callum. He is sent to the farm of Anna's family as a POW to work on harvesting the crops. Because of his dedication to Anna's family she falls for him knowing that this love is forbidden. Into this comes Manfred, who is supposedly a Wehrmacht corporal and Anna finds herself drawn to him. Manfred holds a secret as well and together, with the backdrop of knowledge of the Nazi atrocities, they work their way west to possible safety and the ability to persevere in the face of the hopelessness of the war. The trio forms a bond that binds them together. Mr Bohjalian has written a novel that has again explored how people can survive in the face of upmost death, destruction, and tragedy. He paints a portrait of people, young and old who survive, some because of having a pair of shoes or boots for their feet, and others because of a will to shoulder each day and take on whatever challenges they encounter with amazing fortitude and strength. These stories are ever so important as they will always remind readers of how horrible, gruesome, and vile the Nazis were. We, who are the benefactors of this history, will never forget nor let the world forget what once happened to a world gone insane.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    Oh where to start. This was a huge disappointment. 2 stars is only possible because the writing was alright. It is the "EVERYTHING ELSE" that was the problem. This would have landed square on top of my DNF pile with a resolute thud if I didn't need to read this and if I hadn't already vested an hour and half into it. This book was one big tragedy parade. The first half was simply gruesome and appalling. It was like the author googled WWII horrors and squished every single one of them into the fir Oh where to start. This was a huge disappointment. 2 stars is only possible because the writing was alright. It is the "EVERYTHING ELSE" that was the problem. This would have landed square on top of my DNF pile with a resolute thud if I didn't need to read this and if I hadn't already vested an hour and half into it. This book was one big tragedy parade. The first half was simply gruesome and appalling. It was like the author googled WWII horrors and squished every single one of them into the first half. There was nothing to temper that. It was a severe onslaught of horror. I couldn't even muster any feeling either, except for the over use of the eye-rolling muscles. Half way through, I did contemplate walking away. I put it down and read something else. But when that ended, I figured I could rally to the finish line. When I came back to it, it was less of a tragedy parade and the actual story had some room to unfold. There was also opportunity to get to know the characters. But it was too little too late. The ending of the book matched the thoughts expressed for the first half and my overall general feeling for this book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    The thing about history and the subsequent historical fiction reads, is the opportunity to view events from a different perspective. It can enhance and enlighten what you may already know. Chris Bohjalian’s Skeletons at the Feast provided a viewpoint that many may have not thought about. It made the book a very dramatic and powerful read. After reading my first Bohjalian book, The Light in the Ruins, I was expecting Skeletons at the Feast to be another well-written book. I thought he manages to c The thing about history and the subsequent historical fiction reads, is the opportunity to view events from a different perspective. It can enhance and enlighten what you may already know. Chris Bohjalian’s Skeletons at the Feast provided a viewpoint that many may have not thought about. It made the book a very dramatic and powerful read. After reading my first Bohjalian book, The Light in the Ruins, I was expecting Skeletons at the Feast to be another well-written book. I thought he manages to capture a myriad of emotions such as hope, resiliency, anger, and fear in his writing. I was really drawn into the trials and tribulations of the Emmerich family as they travel west as refugees. While you would think the story would be becoming confusing with the different perspectives, Bohjalian ably handles seamless the shift between them. It doesn’t take away from the tone nor the momentum that has been previously built. I actually enjoyed reading the different views and thoughts of each character which brought depth to the story. Regardless of your own thoughts about the book, you cannot say that the book itself was badly written. What I appreciated most about this book was the angle/view the story was told from. You often have heard/read stories that was told by those in the front lines or civilians who were close or at the heart of the fighting. But we often forget about those who who live in the isolated countryside who don’t know exactly what is occurring at that time. It was interesting to see those like the Emmerich family deal with what they are hearing and trying to come to terms of what their people are doing. It brings up the question of responsibility and forgiveness for a population who didn’t have anything to do with the actual happenings but are part of the group who were perpetrating the atrocities. Furthermore, through their eyes, you see how violence and cruelty were occurring on both sides. As a reader, you can clearly identify the fear these rural Germans had of the Russian army. You realize that in wars, cruelty can also exist within the “good” side. After a slow beginning, Skeletons at the Feast becomes a book in which pulls you into its moving and powerful story. At times, the book can be difficult to read since you are reading one of the most horrible time period in human history. But while it’s heart wrenching, they make what those like the Emmerich family survived even more amazing. Bohjalian wrote a beautifully moving book that provided another aspect of WWII that was both engaging and enlightening. He has become an author who I’ve come to expect to give me intriguing and poignant stories.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Imi

    A disappointment despite the intriguing subject matter. I was excited to read about this period from a new perspective, but this didn't work for me. The violence seemed overly gratuitous and graphic in parts (particularly in the first half). Of course, when I picked this up, I was expecting to read about the horrors of war, but I don't think the author handled the subject very well. I understand these atrocities really happened, but it seemed like Bohjalian felt he had cram in as many of them as A disappointment despite the intriguing subject matter. I was excited to read about this period from a new perspective, but this didn't work for me. The violence seemed overly gratuitous and graphic in parts (particularly in the first half). Of course, when I picked this up, I was expecting to read about the horrors of war, but I don't think the author handled the subject very well. I understand these atrocities really happened, but it seemed like Bohjalian felt he had cram in as many of them as he possibly could in the novel, in minute detail, whether it fit in with the narrative or not. I think the novel would have made more of an impact if the author had chosen to be more focused. As it was I didn't find much of the novel very convincing. I was interested in most of the characters at the beginning, but there was a definite lack of character development throughout, despite all that happened, that made it difficult to truly believe in them. The epilogue in particular was very strange. Also this included a few really awkward sex scenes. This is a problem I seem to have had with many books I've read this year (really, why does this keep happening?!), so maybe I'm just less patient than I used to be with badly written descriptions of sex, but come on that scene (view spoiler)[under the Northern Lights (hide spoiler)] was ridiculous.

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