Susan (Charleston WV)
SKeltons at the Feast
Skeletons at the Feast is well paced and lessons hard learned by war and tragedy are softened by the depth of the characters’ souls and personal stories. It is a book hard to put down. However, there are no jubilant victors in this novel of WWII, only survivors who become skeletons of humanity. The tragic story of war is retold by Bohjalian in this tale where the survivors are, more interestingly, scared by their own knowledge, guilt, and conscious, as well as fear and torment by oppressors and allies as they flee Poland during nightmarish last days of WWII.
Mary (Greeley, CO) (Greeley CO)
After I fairly quickly connected with the characters in this emotional and at times utterly heartbreaking book, I was hooked! I found myself both eager to keep reading, yet a few times, knowing what was likely ahead, too afraid to continue without at least a short break. Although fictional, I felt the well-defined characters undoubtedly epitomized the people who actually experienced the horrors of the Holocaust.
When the book was finished, I felt much more educated regarding some of the events of that harrowing time in history and I had a better sense of the geography of that region (although a map would've been helpful).
I know I won't forget this amazing book, and I highly recommend it!
Zoe (Naperville IL)
A descriptive heart-wrenching view of World War II
Chris Bohjalian has certainly tackled a myriad of subjects: midwives and the stigma of birth defects in the early 60s, trans-gendered relationships in the present day and even revisiting the Great Gatsby. In his latest novel we are drawn into the end of World War II as Germany is collapsing. As usual, his characters are fascinating, multi-dimensional people we want to know more about. Getting the story from the German perspective as the family flees their homeland we gain an appreciation of what the ordinary German population was living through at the time. The parallel story of the Jewish women having to march through the countryside from the concentration camp gives us an appalling, clear view of the tragedies of war - especially this one. Having also recently read "The True Story of Hansel and Gretel" by Louise Murphy, I find I want to learn more about this devastating period in our history.
Erica (New York NY)
Good story, adequate writing
It's always hard to say that a Holocaust-theme novel is "enjoyable." This one had a good story to tell, with interesting, well-developed characters. It became a page-turner, leaving the reader either relieved or devastated to learn the fate of each character. I just wish that the quality of the writing matched the story. Bohjalian uses too many parenthetical clauses. He loves the dash, sometimes using several in one paragraph. I found this annoying and it hindered the flow of the narrative. Still, this is a memorable novel that will probably be a hit with book clubs.
Sarah (Frenchtown MT)
This book offered an interesting historical perspective, that of the experience of German refugees facing the last days of the second World War. Also of interest is a recurring theme of journeying--away from home and life before the ravages of war, and toward an unknown future, or death. However, the flaws in the book all but outweigh the interest. The characters are hastily drawn and never developed satisfactorily. But the primary flaw in this novel is a narrative voice (and even dialogue) that clearly belong to a twenty-first century American male, which at best is distracting, and at worst is downright annoying. There are much better and more moving Holocaust novels out there.
Patty (Towson MD)
A Thought-Provoking Read
What an amazing book! I'll admit that I had a hard time getting into it, at first, as I found the beginning a little confusing. But once I gave it my full attention, I couldn't put it down. Skeletons at the Feast tells an incredibly poignant story of the last part of World War II from a perspective not usually described: that of a German family who don't really understand what is going on around them until they are confronted with the truth.
I cared about each of the characters in this book. Bohjalian doesn't sugarcoat anything but his imagery is not gratuitous.
This is sure to be another bestseller for Chris Bohjalian. Deservedly so.
Priscilla (Houston TX)
Skeletons at the Feast
In the past several years, I have read enough books depicting the lives of average German citizens during WWII to realize that as hard as it is for Americans to understand, many Germans were unaware of the use of Hitler's death camps to systematically eliminate the Jews. This was one of the themes in Skeletons at the Feast.
We meet a group of people from different backgrounds bound together by a shared goal of moving across Germany during a bitter winter in order to reach the American and British troops. I had a hard time keeping everyone straight in the beginning as the story moved from one group to another, but I quickly become invested in the story and the characters. I did wonder if a family of prosperous German farmers would be as noble as the Emmerichs were in their suffering, but I was caught up in their struggle to survive nonetheless.
This is a story of sacrifice, tragedy, bravery, and a will to survive. I recommend it to adult readers who want a deeper understanding of life in WWII Germany.