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Skeletons at the Feast (2008)

by Chris Bohjalian

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1,547729,357 (3.97)97
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.… (more)
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» See also 97 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 71 (next | show all)
This is one of those books it probably would have taken a while for me to find and read. But A GR's friend raved about it earlier in the year and so I added it. I am so glad I did.

The story takes place at the tail end of WWII and is told from 3 perspectives-A Prussian family, a man who is a Jewish run-a-way and a Jewish French woman who is held as slave labor by the Germans. The first 2 are running West searching for the Allies in hopes of being saved. The French woman is a part of a death march. The writing is honest and hard at times, but parts of the story (view spoiler) are beautiful and worth every minute of reading. And the ending.....it was perfect.

This is one of those books I can recommend to all- I know a lot of people have grown tired of all the HF set in WWII-If you ever change your mind-make this the first you pick up ( )
  JBroda | Sep 24, 2021 |
It's hard to describe a book which describes mistreatment of European Jews by the Third Reich and the horrors of WW II as "enjoyable", but I thought it was. Maybe I should just say I found it both moving and interesting. The story tells a story taking place at the last part of the War through the eyes of a Scottish P.O.W., a Jew on the run masquerading as a German soldier, and a German family who leave their home on the eastern front, trying to stay ahead of the closing Russian troops and reach the British / U.S. forces.

( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
I registered this book at BookCrossing.com!
http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/12549030

I picked up this book because I had read Midwives and was impressed by the author's knowledge of midwifery. I was right to think that he'd probably do a good job with this very different subject.

Near the end of World War II, a small village in Poland is threatened by a Russian invasion. The German troops are thinner and thinner on the ground and almost any male who can hold a gun is recruited. Eighteen-year-old Anna is part of a family that lives in this village, far away from the big cities and in many ways ignorant of the real causes of the war. The Germans had captured some Allied forces and eventually farmed them out to villagers to be used as unpaid labor. Callum, from Scotland, works for Anna's family. He is twenty, attractive, and friendly. Quietly, secretly, Anna and Callum become lovers.

But then worse comes to worse. The Russian troops are getting closer and the family has to evacuate. They pack up two wagons and four horses and head out into the snow.

Meanwhile, we meet Manfred, an escapee from a train headed for a concentration camp. He has been on the run for a while when he meets up with the family, and he is dressed in a German uniform stolen from a soldier he killed. The group travels together.

The family meets with some difficult challenges, some worse than others, as the members try to reach the western border of Germany.

I have read a number of books on this war, from different perspectives. This is the first from the standpoint of affluent German citizens living in the countryside. Many of us struggle with the fact that German citizens voted Hitler into office and then turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed by that government. It is sometimes helpful to put ourselves into the position of those on the ground, not involved in politics. It can even be instructive for our own lives.

I felt that Bohjalian did the work. He created believable characters and situations that may well have happened. The fact that this is, too, a kind of love story brings us closer to the characters. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
There's a lot to like about this book. It focuses on an area of WWII (German refugees) that isn't commonly written about. Bohjalian is a terrific writer and he obviously did his research. His descriptions of war scenes are quite gruesome. The only problem I had with this book was the characters. I loved Uri and was really into his story, but I just didn't buy Anna and Callum's love story. Anna is a boring, flat character and I would have really loved this book if she was more interesting and believable. ( )
  bookishblond | Oct 24, 2018 |
Nearing the end of World War II, a group of people, each from various backgrounds, make their way west across Germany in the hope that they will meet the American/British lines and thus, safety. Included in this group: a fairly well-off Prussian family consisting of a mother, daughter, & young son (left behind while the father & two oldest brothers are off fighting in the war); a Scottish POW attempting to avoid detection; and an escaped Jewish man, hiding under the guise of various military uniforms. Also paralleling this group, who travel together, is the story of a young Jewish woman who is initially in one of the labor camps but then is frequently relocated with other Jewish women, forced to walk from destination to destination, many losing their lives along the way.

There are, of course, many novels about World War II, all a bit different. Some deal with the front lines, some center on the treatment of the Jews, some focus on the families left behind, and still others tell of a variety of other aspects of the war. This one, too, is a bit different. Perhaps it is more subtle, but ultimately, no less horrifying. The term "casualties of war" keeps coming to my mind, in all of its various forms. This is a somewhat slow-moving novel, but nonetheless well written. ( )
  indygo88 | Sep 7, 2018 |
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The past is never dead. It's not even past. - William Faulkner
Dedication
For Stephen Kiernan, Adam Turteltaub, and Dana Yeaton
And for Victoria, who reads every word
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The girl - a young woman, really, eighteen, hair the color of corn silk - had been hearing the murmur of artillery fire for two days now.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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.

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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 the Russian front 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 centrury's greatest tragedies-while creating, perhaps, a masterpiece that will haunt readers for generations.
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