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Skeletons at the Feast Paperback – 6 Apr 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; First Paperback Edition edition (6 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847393403
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847393401
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 765,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Skeletons is a tragic but hugely uplifting tale of love, loss and friendship, bringing together people who would be enemies during a time of unspeakable adversity. It is often gruesome and graphic, but never gratuitous. Bohjalian has created a stunning, eminently readable piece of work. He clearly understands humanity and has the enviable ability to commit this to the page' Gay Times Aug issue 'Bohjalian [is] America's answer to Joanna Trollope' Kirkus Reviews

Review

"A deeply satisfying novel." (The Washington Post Book World)

"Sheer storytelling ... an epic romance." (Kirkus Reviews)

"Bohjalian's well-chosen descriptions capture the anguish of a tragic era and the dehumanizing desolation wrought by war." (Publishers Weekly)

"Strongly dramatic and full of the heartbreaking horror of war." (The Hartford Courant)

"Rich in character and gorgeous writing." (Jodi Picoult) --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on 22 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
In January 1945, in the waning months of World War II, a small group of people attempt a long and difficult journey. They are attempting to cross the remnants of the Third Reich from the Russian front to reach the British and American lines. Among the group is the Emmerich family: 18 year old Anna Emmerich, the daughter of a Prussian aristocrat, her mother and her brother Theo. Her father and her brother Helmut try to aid their country by resisting the Russians. There is also Callum Finella, a 20 year old prisoner of war who has been working on the family's farm as forced labour, and has become Anna's lover. There is also a 26 year old Wehrmacht corporal they know as Manfred who in reality is a Jewish German (Uri Singer) who has managed to escape a train bound for Auschwitz.

Two of the perspectives that make up this novel are those of the Emmerich family and of Uri Singer. The third perspective is from Cecile Fournier, a French Jew in a labour camp. Cecile's perspective underscores the horrors of the camps and the strength of will that enabled some to survive.

While much of the story is focussed around the Emmerichs, especially Anna, each of the other perspectives adds great depth to the novel. The horror and squalor of war, the unforgiveable atrocities are all part of this story. But ultimately so too is survival and hope for the future.

I read this novel on the recommendation of others. I am glad that I did. This is a beautifully written novel set in a very dark period in our modern history.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kiwiflora on 9 Nov. 2014
Format: Paperback
There seems to be no end to new books, both fiction and non-fiction about the Second World War, and I seem to be reading a lot of them. Almost without exception, they are very powerful, well written, and good reads, and mostly from the point of view of Germany and Germans being the enemy. This novel, written by an American, focuses on the disaster the war brought to the people of Germany. Not the SS or the prison guards or Hitler and his entourage. But the average German man, woman and child, whose lives were destroyed. Millions of people throughout Europe were forced to fleel their homes with few belongings and no one to help them. We don't seem to have much writing from the average German person's point of view, having been conditioned to collectively seem them all as the enemy, and all complicit in Hitler's vision and its enactment. It is refreshing to read another side of the terrible story of this war.

This novel tells the story of a wealthy farming family in the part of Germany that bordered with Poland - East Prussia. The advance of the vengeful Russians in 1944 into Germany, with all their brutality and thirst for revenge, led to a mass exodus west from this area in an attempt to reach the Allied lines before the Russians caught up with them. The author has taken the diary of an East Prussian woman who kept a diary from 1920 to 1945, parts of which documented her family's fleeing and turned it into this story.

Eighteen year old Anna is the story's narrator. With her mother, her younger brother Theo, and a Scottish POW, they flee with as much of their belongings, and food for themselves and their four horses. It is winter, the journey is long, cold, dangerous and terrifying.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having never heard of this writer, I got this on an Amazon recc - well, thank goodness, this is the sort of book publishers don't give us anymore. Outstanding. I could not put it down. And the joy? Oh, at last, a book that does not do the 'All Germans bad All Allies good' bit and they so often do. This feels real, right down to the vicious gunning by British spitfires. And it tells the forgotten tale of misery of the millions who fled from the Russians.

Aristo family flee with pedigree horses and a British POW. The strong mother and daughter are vivid and well-portrayed while having their weaknesses. Side by side runs a story about a Jewish woman on one of the death marches and her bleak struggle in which there are still moments of light. We see their march with all the horrors and sacrifices and the realities of the future before them. Only it isn't unrelentingly bleak, oddly enough.

The writing had one flaw that a writer of this experience should know: too many points of view. We have to handle 8 points of view overall and it is simply too many and so the mind wanders at times and that was avoidable. It almost made me give this 4 stars but I thought it was so good I did not have the heart. It does detract though.

Marvellous. Read it. Do.
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Format: Paperback
An easy read. The novel is set against the last months of the Third Reich. The Russian advance is accelerating, Germans flee before them, expecting a violent retribution. Through this chaos are force-marched the remaining inmates of concentration camps who are still physically able to move. This period is well covered in many standard histories, Anthony Beevor's Berlin: The Downfall 1945 among the better known and very accessible to the general reader. What can a novel add? The writer has to follow the known facts which, like or not, limit the dramatic imagination. Equally, perhaps it becomes easier to set up a cast of personae who might be typical and take them on a historical tour. So we have Callum, a Scottish POW on a work detail with a Prussian family. In love with Anna, the younger daughter, he stays to help them on their escape from the Red Army. Accompanying them on their travels is Uri, a Jew who jumps off a forced transport. The book also follows Cecile - a Jew from Lyon - in a labour camp. Paths cross, fates intertwine. The brutality of the Gotterdammerung is made clear - German on Jew, Russian on German and German on Russian. But in the end it didn't quite come alive- perhaps I knew the history too well already.
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