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4.0 out of 5 stars
The Bone Church: A Novel
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 15 April 2014
'The Bone Church' by Victoria Dougherty is a beautifully crafted piece of fiction. Set largely in and around Prague, the narrative alternates between the time of the Nazi occupation and specific events in 1956 when Czechoslovakia was under the heel of the Soviets. The central concept deals with the lengths people will go to in order to survive in an inhuman landscape.

The writing is spare and tense, with an authentic Eastern European feel. The Sword of Damocles hangs over the heads of the main characters, Felix and Magdalena, and the reader is drawn skilfully into a world of mistrust and paranoia. The threat of betrayal is ever-present. The twisting narrative - enhanced by its time-dislocated structure - is claustrophobic and dark, a meditation on suffering and redemption.

At times, I was put in mind of the works of Milan Kundera, while the novel also has something of Graham Greene's 'The Third Man' about it. The Church of All Saints (the 'Bone Church' of the title) sits at the metaphorical core of the book, a constant reminder of impermanence and mortality. Like Eliot, and Webster before him, Ms Dougherty knows well the skull beneath the skin, and how life and death elide.

Peopled with memorable characters and with some fine plotting, Ms Dougherty's novel is a serious candidate for my Book of the Year 2014.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 May 2014
The Bone Church by Victoria Dougherty is a sumptuous cross-examination of the human condition and reminded this reader of the later work of Alistair MacLean. There are two story lines brilliantly interwoven describing the lives of Magdalena and Felix. We have the Cold War of 1956 in Czechoslovakia and the Nazi occupation of that country during WWII. Both occupying forces showed a callous resentment to Jews and Gypsies and it is here the author excels at delving into the human psyche.
This reader marvelled at the lengths these subjugated people would go to survive, never losing their dignity, never degrading, always uplifting with hope on the distant horizon. I loved the journey Magdalena and Felix endured, so well described in a minimalist style that left plenty for this reader to imagine and mull over. The assortment of characters they met were wonderfully entertaining and some extremely unpleasant. The feeling of paranoia and mistrust bled from every page and created anxiety in my own mind too. I really stepped into the lead characters' minds and lived through their eyes, endured their suffering and heartbreak.
And finally there is the Bone Church, a mystical place and all I will say here is the author's description created a stunning masterpiece that should be hung in the Louvre. Incredible.
This FIVE STAR Cold War thriller is so highly recommended I would say beyond all doubt this would be declared the thriller novel of the year.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'You Are There!' A review by Billy Ray Chitwood - May 18, 2014, May 18, 2014

By Billy Ray Chitwood "Billy Ray Chitwood" (Spencer, TN USA) - See all my reviews

This review is from: The Bone Church: A Novel (Kindle Edition)

Walter Cronkite coined the phrase, 'You Are There', many years ago for his newscasts!

Reading "The Bone Church: A Novel" this reader's mind was a reel of film playing out dark and somber moments of war movies from my youth... One can read about Felix Andel, Magdalena Ruza, and the richly portrayed characters from the many 5-Star reviews here on Amazon, the failed attempts of fleeing Prague, the emergence from World War II into the Cold War... Choose the metaphorical summation - a tapestry, a painting, a portrait - and it will be a correct depiction of "The Bone Church - A Novel."

My focus is on the author's immense talent, her own unique family experience in that Eastern European environment, and the ultimate truth of her fiction. Reading Victoria's book here or her excellent blog, 'Cold', is reading an author whose life has been punctuated by stark reality. Victoria Dougherty is an author you will not want to miss.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 June 2014
The first part of Victoria Dougherty's The Bone Church is not an easy read. It begins with a harrowing scene and never lets up. Add in some decidedly heavy material and WW2 themes, with a narrative that is oft more than a little challenging, and your head will be spinning.

BUT, don’t give up! One third of the way through and I discovered I was hooked. The WW2 references are wonderful, and the author’s knowledge of history inserted with her own brand of fiction will capture your attention. Indeed, sometimes I found myself wondering which was fact and which was fiction.
Main characters Magdalena and Felix stood out. They are trapped and haunted in their untenable position, but I felt an admiration for their plight more than mere woe.

That said I had to work in some parts to understand what was happening…the reader has to pay attention to the date at the beginning of each chapter; the time changes back and forth.
Nevertheless, this novel is an interestingly addictive foray into a world of paranoia, deceit mistrust, and ultimate betrayal.
Awarded four stars and recommended for history lovers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 June 2014
This book is quite simply amazing.

The story slowly unfurls, pulling the reader along with it, through the harrowing conditions that humanity had sunk or been forced into during and post war Europe. The characters are so real that the story takes pole position in the minds eye and you can see and feel what they are going through and the need to shout a warning when danger lurks or to speak words that are left unsaid is incredibly strong throughout. The writing is brilliant and in the beauty of words put together well the reader lives a whole new scenario of life. The end is never as cut and dried as we would want it to be but in reality the ending lies in the only place it can - in the heart of a whole new beginning
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 May 2014
My first thought was that this sounded a bit heavy but I'm so glad I tried it! I was tense, scared, anguished, relieved, surprised... For two days I've read this book after work and I feel like I've been on an emotional rollercoaster. How this was real life is heart breaking and my thoughts go to those in your acknowledgements. The characters to me held enough mystery to convey the same uncertainty about people during wartime... Who do you really know and trust? And the plot got thicker and kept me guessing. A fantastic read, well done to the author: thank you for the insight, the research to make this story come to life and for what I found a truely emotional book on so many levels.
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on 13 June 2015
This book is set in Czechoslovakia during World War II and then again in 1956 when that country is under the control of the Russians. It concentrates on those who had most to fear from Nazi Germany: the Jews and Gypsies, both totally excluded from both oppressors.

Magdalena is part Jewish and through Felix Andel, is thrown together with his friend Srut when he becomes involved with trying to get Magdalena to safety. The story jumps between Felix’s love affair with Magdalena during the war, and the very different relationship in 1956 when she has been married and borne a son, and Felix is now a Jesuit priest.

This book is beautifully written and is peppered with sub-plots, which means that at no time is the reader bored. As well as Nazi and Russian oppression, there is a love story, theft of a sacred icon, a doomed assassination attempt, great heroism and sacrifice, and plenty of despair.

Above all else it is a searing account of the depths of cruelty and depravity to which humans may sink, and more positively the power of love in rising above tragedy.

Victoria Dougherty shows her impressive command of both history and superlative writing, and produces a gripping and emotional story which draws you into the characters, their pain and their moments of joy. These characters aren’t gung-ho super-men and women, but real people, who feel real emotions and who at times despair. The reader can only be in awe at the sacrifices made by the Resistance.

I only have two issues with the book; firstly I got a little confused as the book switched timeframes, often just saying the same day in the chapter headings and not the year. Secondly that, despite the title, other than a brief reference early on, the Bone Church wasn’t mentioned again until two-thirds of the way through, and I failed to grasp the significance of it until I resorted to Google and found photos of this terrible but eerily beautiful place, reminding all who visit it of the universal truth that, “in the midst of life we are in death.”

Overall a stunning read! -- Pashtpaws

Rating: Five stars.

bestsellingcrimethrillers.com was provided with an advanced copy for review.
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on 11 November 2014
I think I would have enjoyed this more if the manner in which I read it hadn’t have been so stop-start-stop-start. However that’s the way things turned out for whatever reason.

Fantastic setting with Prague both in the war and the mid-50’s. Decent main characters that you hope escape the city intact to enjoy a brighter future. Great tension created by the author, with this reader never really sure who Felix and Magdalena could trust, or whether they were being manipulated.

I did get slightly confused in places, as the narrative switched between the two time frames, but overall a decent read. I blame myself for the reader confusion, as there were outside events running parallel that made me take my eye off the ball at times.

I was subsequently driven to look up the Bone Church and the Infant Jesus of Prague to see if they were figments of the author’s imagination or actually existed. She makes great use of these in the narrative, though as a lapsed Catholic myself, I am somewhat bemused at the importance the church attaches to these religious relics, seeming to place a higher value on them than the well-being of some of their congregation. Apparently the infant figure was recently granted a Canonical Coronation by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 – perhaps it was a quiet year and there weren’t too many abuse scandals or third world issues that merited his attention.

Definitely going to read more from this author in the future. This is her debut novel.

Acquired on Kindle from Amazon.
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on 13 April 2015
This was a difficult story to get into for me, which surprised me. The premise seems so good - Czechoslovakia, wartime, fugitive lovers, a faked religious icon, and a plot to assassinate Josef Goebbels – the promise of which kept me reading. But I found the time shifts, the point of view shifts, and the way the action changed from paragraph to paragraph quite confusing. Assuming this was a formatting issue with my Kindle copy, I kept reading.
The story starts in Rome in 1956 in the Vatican City with a Cardinal and a man called Felix. Then we see Magdalena and her son Ales in Czechoslovakia, a man arrives and takes away her son. Then the action switched to 1943, as Felix and Magdalena are on the run in Prague. He is a famous hockey player, a celebrity, she is a Jew. By this point, the story should have gripped me but I’m afraid it didn’t, I hadn’t read enough about the two characters to care. I think my basic problem is the way the story was told, not the actual story itself; the writing is rich with description and the author certainly knows her history. Halfway through, things started to make a little more sense though at times the plot seemed unnecessarily complicated.
The best bit? The assassination scene, involving a birthday cake, a gun, and Josef Goebbels.
To read more of my book reviews, got to http://www.sandradanby.com/and click on 'blog'
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on 13 May 2015
I should probably have thrown in the towel when the story stopped working for me and I was forcing myself to continue reading the book. But no, this was a netgalley book and I was going to finish it. This is the last time I think so, next time when the book fails me I will just stop and read something else instead of suffering through I book that is clearly not meant for me.

The Bone Church follows two separate story lines, WW2 in Prague and after the war several years later; unfortunately it just didn’t work because it just made the story confusing to read. Suddenly you are in the past and you reading about characters you hardly remember. I just felt lost and also the characters weren’t memorable, I just didn’t care if they found each other or if the real infant of Prague was found (apparently that was part of the story also). Frankly my dear I just don't give a damn!
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