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Skeletons at the Feast [Paperback]

Chris Bohjalian
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 April 2009
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 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 Finnella, a young Scottish prisoner of war who has been brought from the stalag to her family's farm as forced labour. And there is the intriguing Wehrmacht corporal whom the pair know as Manfred - who is, in reality, Uri Singer, a Jew from Germany who managed a daring escape from 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. Skilfully capturing the flesh and blood of history, Bohjalian has crafted a rich tapestry that puts a face on one of the 20th century's greatest tragedies - while creating a masterpiece that will haunt readers for generations.

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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: 12.9 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 611,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'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

About the Author

Chris Bohjalian is the critically acclaimed author of 11 novels, including Skeletons at the Feast and his most recent New York Times bestseller, The Double Bind, published by Pocket Books. His work has been translated into eighteen languages and published in twenty-one countries. He lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read 24 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I Lv Chris Bohjalians novels and this was no exception. The cross cultural experiences of the war were heart rendering.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding war tale with a heart 17 Sep 2013
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Readable but Uninspired 25 Mar 2013
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Skeletons at the feast 9 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Not the first book I have read about what happened during the war, but the first from a German perspective. I found it quite harrowing in places, but also uplifting. A wonderful read
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderfully written tale of the journey of a group of unlikely 'friends' travelling through Germany at the end of the second world war.A Hitler loving Mum (at least at first), a beautiful German daughter and her sweet brother, a Scottish POW and a Jewish Refugee. The story is extremely hard to swallow at times, very graphic accounts of Torture and death which leaves you feeling distubed and sad but ultimately this is an uplifting account of the human spirit and of love. The love between family, friends, lovers, strangers and of ones own life no matter how desperate it is. Excellent book!
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