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Skeletons at the Feast (2008)
di Chris Bohjalian
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Bohjalian ventures into the milieu of World War II Germany and tells the story of Anna Emmerich, a German girl living on the edge of Poland and her German family, who are Nazi party members. These are rural German's who are oblivious to the atrocities and turn a blind eye to the disappearances of people around them to relocation. It is the last days of the war, and the family is forced to flee before the oncoming Russian army. Accompanying them is a Scottish POW named Callum Finella who is given to her family to help work the farm, and a Jewish man, Uri Singer, who escapes the Nazi's by cleverly posing as one of them.
The story is unusual in being told from the point of view of the Germans (although this is the second such book I have read recently and not through any design to do so). Perhaps the tales of the Allies and those of the Holocaust victims have been exhausted and at this remove we can be more open to the stories of how the insanity of Nazi Germany affected everyday Germans.
The story is told masterfully, without any feeling that anything included is unnecessary or left out. Bohjalian amazes me with his ability to tell stories from so many different eras, with such disparate characters and yet to always seem knowledgeable and at home with his subjects. Stories such as this must always be told, lest we forget how devastating such a war can be and to help us remember that even among the monsters there are people who are just caught up in the circumstances created by others.
This is one of those books it probably would have taken a while for me to find and read. But A GR's friend raved about it earlier in the year and so I added it. I am so glad I did.
The story takes place at the tail end of WWII and is told from 3 perspectives-A Prussian family, a man who is a Jewish run-a-way and a Jewish French woman who is held as slave labor by the Germans. The first 2 are running West searching for the Allies in hopes of being saved. The French woman is a part of a death march. The writing is honest and hard at times, but parts of the story (view spoiler) are beautiful and worth every minute of reading. And the ending.....it was perfect.
This is one of those books I can recommend to all- I know a lot of people have grown tired of all the HF set in WWII-If you ever change your mind-make this the first you pick up
It's hard to describe a book which describes mistreatment of European Jews by the Third Reich and the horrors of WW II as "enjoyable", but I thought it was. Maybe I should just say I found it both moving and interesting. The story tells a story taking place at the last part of the War through the eyes of a Scottish P.O.W., a Jew on the run masquerading as a German soldier, and a German family who leave their home on the eastern front, trying to stay ahead of the closing Russian troops and reach the British / U.S. forces.
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Wikipedia in inglese (1)
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 eighteen-year-old Anna Emmerich, the daughter of Prussian aristocrats. There is her lover, Callum Finella, a twenty-year-old Scottish prisoner of war who was brought from the stalag to her family’s farm as forced labor. And there is a twenty-six-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 even survive. Perhaps not since The English Patient has a novel so deftly captured both the power and poignancy of romance and the terror and tragedy of war. Skillfully portraying the flesh and blood of history, Chris Bohjalian has crafted a rich tapestry that puts a face on one of the twentieth century’s greatest tragedies–while creating, perhaps, a masterpiece that will haunt readers for generations.
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Sistema Decimale Melvil (DDC)813.54Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
The brutalities of war are clearly portrayed. The traumatic content is relieved on occasion by the relationships between family members and love developing between the POW and the family’s daughter. The different perspectives highlight the various attitudes toward the Jews. The Prussian family is largely unaware of (or turns a blind eye to) what is happening to their neighbors who disappeared. As with many WWII novels, there is a lot of difficult content, but is consistent with history. I became invested in the story and cared about what happened to the characters. My only slight disappointment is the ending, which strays a bit far afield. I think the author wanted to surprise the reader, but these last-minute twists seldom work well for me. ( )