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Jacob's Oath: A Novel by Martin…
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Jacob's Oath: A Novel

by Martin Fletcher

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Jacob's Oath by Martin Fletcher: One Reader's Review

It takes unspeakable fortitude and significant literary artistry to carry off a novel embedded -- including not only the plot but the very psyches of the characters -- temporally, geographically and thematically in the immediate aftermath of perhaps the most notorious program of genocide in human history, the Holocaust.***

What is quickly and increasingly clear to the reader -- thanks to Fletcher's sophisticated crafting of the text of this narrative -- is that after the complete subversion of Humanity and Life as principles and the eradication of so much of both as a matter of fact, these two hearty pillars can strangely enough be spotted again holding things up somehow in daily existence for the survivors. Indeed, sometimes human connection and the most normal and healthy rhythms of life are seen to emerge during or in absurd proximity to the most unusual and alienating situations the characters' face. This thematically significant pattern is exemplified by the love story, undermining from the outset our protagonist's vengeful project. which is used to frame the plot generally. Falling in love and settling down to raise a family arise naturally and beautifully as opportunities for change and growth in the protagonists'lives, but Jacob's entire existential project forbids such personally desirable and otherwise natural development.

To sum it up, Fletcher's writing supplies the emotional depth and sincerity, as well as the intellectual sophistication, to match well the intense issues inevitably raised by the novel's storyline. Seriously, the narration is pitch perfect throughout; this is a great novel.

Thank you for reading my ideas; I hope they prove somehow useful or somewhat entertaining. I would like to thank the author himself and St. Martin's Press via its Read-It-First newsletter, which gave me access to this great read -- first in the form a sizable excerpt emailed to me and later as a hard copy of the novel I won through a newsletter/excerpt-associated giveaway. ( )
  kara.shamy | Jan 9, 2014 |
Just weeks before Germany surrendered in April 1945, Jacob Klein's young brother, Maxie, who was suffering from typhoid, was killed by a savage Nazi guard. As Maxie died, Jacob promised him would get revenge. As he prepared to leave Bergen-Belsen, Jacob saw the guard, Rat, walking out. He was in no position to follow him or keep his promise at that time but was determined to go to Heidelberg, where they both had lived, find Rat, and kill him.
Sarah Kaufman, also from Heidelberg, promised her lover, whom she planned to marry, that they would meet in Heidelberg after the war if they were still alive. She survived by being hidden by good Christians only to be attacked by one of the liberating Russian soldiers.
Though it was difficult, both Jacob and Sarah met in Heidelberg, the only two Jews to have returned by the end of May. They meet and fall in love.
Jacob keeps watching out for Rat to return so he can carry out his oath. Sarah is afraid if he does so he will be caught and arrested, thus ruining any chance of them having a future together.
While neither of them are aware of it, there is a Jewish Brigade hit team targeting former SS officers.
Moral questions form a large part of the plot: Is someone from whom everything was taken guilty for stealing items to survive from people who may or may not have personally stolen from him? Was violence ever the answer? If so, what about other family members who would be directly affected by the retaliation? What should people do if those in control, in this case the liberating army, do not differentiate between the victims and the perpetrators? What would be the effect of killing a few former brutal Nazis? Are there limits to promised, hatred, love? What future is there for Jewish survivors who return to their prewar homes? The characters explain the desperate need for personal, often sexual relationships among the survivors. However, I think it was too detailed and distracted from the main story.
Martin Fletcher raise an interesting concept: "We all live with delusion...; it's our best weapon of survival. If we don't delude ourselves about ourselves, how can we live with ourselves?" It is the foundation for much of the story.
JACOB'S OATH was a well-written, fast-paced novel with and O.Henry-like ending. ( )
  Judiex | Nov 24, 2013 |
no paperback edition
  TBE | Oct 8, 2013 |
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"As World War II winds to a close, Europe's roads are clogged with twenty million exhausted refugees walking home. Among them are Jacob and Sarah, lonely Holocaust survivors who meet in Heidelberg. But Jacob is consumed with hatred and cannot rest until he has killed his brother's murderer, a concentration camp guard nicknamed "The Rat." Now he must choose between revenge and love, between avenging the past and building a future. Martin Fletcher, who won the National Jewish Book Award for Walking Israel, proved his chops as a novelist with The List, which was selected as the One Book, One Jewish Community title for the city of Philadelphia. Now, Fletcher brings us another touching novel of love, loyalty, and loss, set in the aftermath of the Holocaust"--… (more)

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