Wednesday, May 19, 2010

'Skeletons at the Feast'..... A book review......

'Skeletons at the Feast'
A book review......

'Skeletons at the Feast', written by Chris Bohjalian, is an historical novel that takes place in the final months of World War II. Bohjalian, in an interview, said that the inspiration for the book came after a friend loaned him the diary of her German grandmother. However, he points out that the book is not based on the diary, nor are the characters. Bohjalian also states in the interview, "one of the issues I wanted to explore in the novel was the complicity of the average German civilian in the Holocaust." This book was very different from any other book I've read about World War II in that it is written from a German civilian prospective.

The story begins in Prussia, where the Emmerich's, a family of Prussian aristocrats own an estate. Unexplainable things are happening around them. People are disappearing. Children at school are being pumped for information about their home life. The family economic situation has deteriorated and the Russian front is moving in.
Seven British POW's from a near by prison camp are sent to help the family harvest crops. One of them known as Callum and the Emmerich's eighteen year old daughter Anna fall in love. They begin having an affair unbeknownst to the family. It is through the conversations Anna has with Callum that she begins to realize some of the atrocities people in her country have been committing. She begins to doubt her government and many of the things she has grown up to believe in.
As the Russians begin closing in the family realizes they must leave their beloved estate. The father obtains permission to take Callum with them. They pack very little belongings, leave most of they're pets and live stock, and become refugees like so many others during that time. Shortly after the family starts this very treacherous journey, the older brother, and father leave to fight in the German army. Callum, the mother, the little brother, and Anna are forced to continue on alone in the hopes of reaching the American and British lines.
Callum and the family face death and destruction every where they turn as they travel through the war ravaged country side.
During they're journey they meet and then travel with Uri, a Jew who has escaped from a train heading to Auschwitz, a Jewish death camp. Uri, calls himself Manfred, and is traveling the country posing as a German soldier. These five individuals come to form a deep attachment and lasting love for one another.
Through out the story one gets a clear view of war and the chilling and horrendous devastation it causes. One hears of the death camps and of the death marches. One follows the fictitious Cecile, a young Jewish girl forced into one of the death marches and the torment she and others must endure.
'Skeletons of the Feast' is a story about love, loss, heroism, and humanity at it's worst. It is also a story about the human spirit at it's finest. It is a book that is quite disturbing to read and yet one that is difficult to put down.
In deciding on an epigraph for the book, Bohjalian said he considered several options. One option that he didn't choose was the remarks of Martin Niemoller in the post war period.
"First they came for the Socialists, and I didn't speak out-
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionist's, and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me."
-Martin Niemoller-
Instead, the epigraph Bohjahlian did choose was as follows:
"The past is never dead.
It's not even past"
-William Faulkner-
Images courtesy ofbarnes and Noble



well, well, thank you for this - I'd never have thought of it otherwise !

Vee said...

Sounds like a difficult book to read. Having read a few books on that time period, I think it would be intersting to read one with yet another perspective. I do know this, it is very difficult to bring this topic up with a German who lived through that time. They avoid it like the plague. Thanks for a review that makes me want to read the book!

GardenofDaisies said...

This looks like avery interesting book. I will have to look for it at the book store.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Oh, this is a must read for my summer!!! Anita

Just a little something from Judy said...

Having the privilege of visiting this blog is like having my own personal librarian recommending the best books for me to read. Only trouble is, my list is growing and my free reading time is diminishing:)

Thanks Carol for introducing this book to us.

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Oh, Carol! I must read this. Sounds like an amazing book. I just bought CHURCHILL AND THE JEWS, and my book has disappeared. Me thinks Mr. Magpie pinched it.

Thank you for this review, and you know how much I love Faulkner and his quote.


Sheila :-)

Madeline's Album said...

This book sounds like one I'd like to read, will have to put it on my list. Have a blessed day. Madeline

♥ Kathy said...

that sounds good Carol! I've missed you ♥

Micki said...

Looks like an interesting book...I will have to check it out!

Knitty said...

Thanks for posting about this. I read his book Midwives, and was surprised that I liked it much as I did. He told a difficult story and did it in a way that was good for me, as a woman, to read. Sometimes men don't write in a way that is palatable for women and vice versa, at least when the subject is sensitive to the reader.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Deareset Carol and Charli,

Thank you for coming to visit me and for your sweet congratulations. It was an honor to be at that ceremony, and I never thought I would be part of something like that. It has been a difficult school year, quite fatiguing and at times discouraging, but I guess that is no different from being a parent, watching the young ones go through what we all went through: GROWING UP. I am looking forward to a good summer and I hope that you and sweet Charli have a blast this summer vacation!!!

You are such a sweet friend for coming and indulging me in my fluffy fantasies!!! :)


Shelley said...

Another interesting book! You give very nice detailed reviews!
Tell Charli that Scout says hello and wanted to know if she would be wearing anything special for Memorial Day?

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