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 18-year-old Anna Emmerich, the daughter of Prussian aristocrats. There is her lover, Callum Finella, a 21-year-old Scottish prisoner of war who was brought from the stalag to her family's farm as forced labour. And there is 26-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 survive.
©2008 Chris Bohjalian; (P)2008 Bolinda Publishing
This book draws together stories illustrating those who suffered as innocent and not so innocent victims of the massive upheaval in their lives caused by the Second World War in Europe. We follow the epic journey West of a well-to-do Prussian family exiled from their estate as the Russians advance from the East with their British POW worker in tow; experience the pain and indignities suffered by Jewish girls taken to a concentration camp; and shadow the exploits of a young Jewish escapee on the run. Unlike the Ken Follett book, Winter of the World, I've just listened to set in the same period, Skeletons at the Feast hardly mentions the bigger picture or the real characters involved in the war. Instead it focuses intensely on the struggle of the characters to survive as the war rages around them. The depressing narrative is lightened by a love-affair that blossoms amid the chaos.
It's a fine book that through fiction honours those whose lives were turned over by the war, including German civilians and ordinary soldiers.
The reader is very good managing many different accents including a creditable rendition of one from NE Scotland.
Really loved this book. So true to the history of the war but also so true of the friendships and needs for friendship that arose. Evoked many emotions for the characters in their situations.
The loss of the son for the family and their total acceptance of the situation they were in. Made you wonder how you would have reacted in that situation.
I think this was the first. Although it may appeared to have lacked excitement it was truly correct for the subject matter. Was not irrating through the length of the book. A really good performance.
Would need to give this more thought.
Have now read/listened to many titles and would recommend this one.
Thought provoking. Informed me about aspects of WWII I'd never really thought about. Didn't grab me, but was happy to hear it out. Unexpected twist at the end.
"War from the inside out"
I thought this book provided valuable insights into the lives of many Europeans during World War II, and examines the period from the inside out, with microscopic detail. Chris Bohjalian does not disappoint in revealing the moral conflicts and ambiguities of individuals caught up in forces beyond their control, and the reader must realize ultimately that we are all human, and have human actions and reactions, event though caught up in the changing tides of global conflict. This was preferable as a story line, in my opinion, to the plethora of other WW II novels which focus on the big picture or offer us cloak-and-dagger spy stories.
But I do think this latest was missing something in its larger focus. Bohjalian is best when he uses a smaller lens to filter the family and social conflicts that make us all question our motives and behaviors, and cause us to hit the wall when we confront others with differing histories, situations and attitudes.
Bohjalian is to be commended for the variety of the issues he explores in each of his books, and I am reasonably certain that I have read them all. He is never content to always stay with what works, and is persistent in his discovery of new and difficult situations to present in his novels. But "Skeletons", I thought, was so large a canvas that it missed the interesting details of the inner landscape of each of the characters.
The narrator is talented and gifted with characterization and regional accents, but the language-specific narration was really something I could have done without. A straight reading in the narrator's own accent and speech patterns would have worked better.
I would be quite interested in attending a Bohjalian event centered around this book, as I think there is more to discover than what I have mentioned here.
"Learned so much more."
Very interesting material - I learned things I had no idea about - ie. Dresden. Once I learned of what happened at Dresden I HAD to go research it, I HAD NO IDEA the extent of damage or casualties. From this research I also learned this is where Slaughterhouse Five was conceived since KV was a POW and held in an actual slaughterhouse (which ultimately saved him.) Some is very hard to listen to - this entire autrocity is hard to concieve for me - hard to comprehend how humans can turn so vicious OR HOW MASSES of people can just roll over and ""obey"" This book gives a look from various perspectives - I highly recommend for those seeking/interested in the human spirit, life, war, love, family, courage, this time in our history - glimpses of our future?
"Compelling and sad"
I had not considered before what life was like for German citizens during WW2. This story was so real,unflinchingly gruesome but I couldn't stop listening. I was cheering for all of the characters to live through their march to the West.
"An Unforgettable Journey"
I loved Bohjalian's Double Bind and although this was my second choice for a long road trip, it was amazing. I was immediately hooked and taken into the story. I was mesmerized by the story of Anna and her family as they the endured the last year of WWII. The parallel story of the women from the work camp was difficult to listen to, because the writers choice of vocabulary and style was real and at times graphic, but it brought it all alive. The narrator made it all the more engaging. He was not only easy to listen to, his accent made it seem as though he had been through it all and was telling the story as he remembered it, not as someone else wrote it. I loved the characters, each of them with their own strengths and weaknesses. If you love history and a good story, treat yourself. It may not be a true story, but I am sure the events in this book took place over and over during that time.
"A story as Powerful as Cold Mountain"
Though we know that the front line fighting is terrible this book helps us realize the powerlessness of being behind the front lines on a losing war. The power of those with guns and the powerless fo those who are left. A great story, wonderfully written that I didn't want to put down once I started.
"Cried, shuddered, whimpered"
Yes, this book got to me in a most powerful way, and in my opinion, the narration helped a lot. I never thought the regional accents distracted; in fact often it kept me grounded on who was talking without waiting for the "Uri said". The story is one harrowing experience after another, from 3 different trails of German refugees until the stories finally link. It's suspense without spies, and of course you know the ending of the WWII story, but you don't know with the people in this story who will still be standing. It's one of the books I've listened to and now must purchase to have on my shelf.
"A well constructed story from beginning to end."
The subject matter (near end of WWII) is not a fun plot, but the sensitivity and compassion shown in Chris Bohjalian's accounting is memorable. The charcters all had three dimensions and were memorable, no matter how small their parts. The trek accross Germany by the central family was arduous but brought out the strengths and yes, some of the weaknesses they embodied. Uri was the quintiesstial survivor,& the love story between Collum and Anna rang touchingly true. Mutti was the Mother Courage of the group. The story of the Jewish girls being marched from one camp to another was brutal, but leant a realism and a contrast to all the refugees fleeing. I loved this book. I have 'read' Double Bind by this author (which was very different but nonetheless compelling) and look forward to listening to his other ones. The book was finely crafted and extremely well written.....This guy really knows how to write!
It was intertwined story and very compelling.
Yuri's transformation through out the book. The disguises he used to stay alive.
His uses of accent and his voice which is amazing.
It made me ever more aware of the true hell that the victims of the Nazis experienced. I have read hundreds of books on the Holocaust and each one make me more attuned to the plight of the Jews and those who tried to assist them during the Nazi occupation of most of Europe. I felt sad at the loss of several of the characters and joyous at the triumph of those who survived the horror of the Nazis and the Russians.
If we don't know history, we are doomed to repeat it.
"Painful and beautiful"
Historical fiction fascinates me, but when written so beautifully, it allows this time period to become a part of the reader. I have a relative who lived through this particular time, and this book brought me a little glimpse of what he must have lived through himself. Loved this book.
He's so expressive and his voice has great depth and clarity. I love listening to him.
"Terrible, tragic story well told"
Compelling, overwhelmingly sad
The depth of the characters against the backdrop of eastern Europe during WWII
Almost. I could barely put it down
This is a story of the tragic treatment of the Jews during WWII as well as the brutality of war and the loss of humanity by soldiers.
When I started it, I nearly put it down as it was hard to listen to the details of the horrors.
However, it is well written and the story of the characters is so compelling that I found myself creating time to listen to it.
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