Jacob's Oath: Book summary and reviews of Jacob's Oath by Martin Fletcher

Jacob's Oath

By Martin Fletcher

Jacob's Oath
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2013,
    336 pages.

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Book Summary

Martin Fletcher's Jacob's Oath is a heart-wrenching and heartwarming thriller about the consequences of revenge that will be a huge word-of-mouth and book club favorite.

As World War II winds to a close, Europe's roads are clogged with twenty million exhausted refugees walking home. Among them are Jacob and Sarah, lonely Holocaust survivors who meet in Heidelberg. But Jacob is consumed with hatred and cannot rest until he has killed his brother's murderer, a concentration camp guard nicknamed "The Rat." Now he must choose between revenge and love, between avenging the past and building a future.

Martin Fletcher, who won the National Jewish Book Award for Walking Israel, proved his chops as a novelist with The List, which was selected as the One Book, One Jewish Community title for the city of Philadelphia. Now, Fletcher brings us another touching novel of love, loyalty, and loss, set in the aftermath of the Holocaust.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The taut prose and multidimensional protagonists help make this a page-turner." - Publishers Weekly

"While some of the characters feel hollow, Fletcher does a particularly good job of bringing the titular character to life, imbuing him with a dark side brought to the fore by the horrors he's experienced. An expressive and generally well-told story of love and hatred, revenge and recovery." - Kirkus

"A moving love story... A small gem of a novel." - Booklist

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Carolyn V. (Douglass, KS)
A different view of the Holocaust
I enjoyed this book and it's characters. I found the way Jacob dealt with his grief and desire for revenge very satisfying. The book's ending was good without being too neat and perfect.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Kelly H. (Martinsville, IN)
Jacob's Oath
Jacob's Oath is a novel about Holocaust survivors, Jacob and Sarah. Jacob survived a camp, and Sarah survived in hiding, underground. Of course, each of them has endured horror beyond imagination. Jacob's oath is to avenge his brother's death.

After the war, the two meet, and must try to put their lives back together. Jacob must decide what is more important: his oath to his brother, or building a new life with Sarah.

I enjoyed the book, although it was a bit slow at times. It would be a great book club read; there is no shortage of discussion material when it comes to the Holocaust. It would also be a great book for a book club because typically some can't stomach this subject, while some feel it demands examination, even though it can feel physically bad to discuss it. I think those are the most interesting and fulfilling book club meetings.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Barbara L. (Novato, CA)
Jacob's 0ath
I loved this book although it was difficult to read about the atrocities of the war. The theme of revenge was prominent, but more so the theme of love, human resilience, and hope. When everything has been taken away from both Jacob and Sarah, their homes, their families, their loves, their dignity, they still somehow find a way to begin again and build a new life.This story of the strength of the human spirit is inspiring as well as deeply satisfying.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Gunta K. (Glens Falls, NY)
The Indistructable Spirit of the Human
The human spirit is indestructable. This has been shown in our human history over and over again. It is also so in Martin Fletcher's novel. This is a diary of various moments in the lives of Jacob and Sarah during WW II and its aftermath. Having lost everything, family, home all support systems, totally subjected to the kind of torture we humans are capable of, these two Jews try to survive in an environment that hates them. Jacob is a survivor of Bergen-Belsen, torture camp for Jews. He witnessed the killing of his little brother. Sarah had lost the love of her life, Hoppi, one night in a deserted cemetery she prematurely gives birth to her baby. Baby is born dead. She is alone and terrified as the chance of her life coming to an end instantly either at the hands of the Soviets or the Nazis is a given. Sarah and Joseph meet by chance while hiding and together attempt to survive mentally and physically. Sarah has many emotional scars.The vivid descriptions of foraging for food, cigarette butts, as well as safety are very vivid. Sarah is helped by an American GI after being brutally raped. The soldier takes her to a hospital. Eventually Sarah and Jacob fall in love. They are not able to move on with their lives until Jacob is able to avenge the murder of his little brother Maxie. The psychological scars are receding somewhat for the two of them but all is definitely not well. There are many moments here in this novel where I had to put the book down and go for a little walk to air out my head. It is an amazing, yet, a very disturbing story. Surely required reading for generations who are interested in WW II and those who are interested in what exactly happened in the now distant past. There are not many left who can tell the human history of WW2 in the first person. We must read and learn about those times so as to help prevent this from ever happening again. This book is a lesson in geography, human prejudice, fear, and above all history.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Robert S. (Henderson, NV)
The Ultimate Liberation
Martin Fletcher's Jacob's Oath is the moving and thought provoking story of two German Jewish Holocaust survivors, one who endured Bergen-Belsen and the other who, although avoiding the camps, experienced her own hell in underground Berlin. Set in Germany in the days immediately preceding and following VE Day, the work is a probing exploration of the relationships and tensions between the two protagonists, between each protagonist and his past and, most poignantly, between a resolute determination to avenge yesterday's horrors juxtaposed with an acceptance of what was and a redirection imbued with tomorrow's promise. With gratitude to the author, I was moved by the book to reflect about the experiences and feelings of the newly liberated survivors as the Nazi oppression was suddenly and seamlessly replaced by the treachery of of the Russian victors. I was uncomfortable as Fletcher's characters witnessed their captors resume their pre-war life and came face to face with their former neighbors who cheered as the Jews were led away expecting never to see them again and who had become the beneficiaries of the Jewish homes and property that the Nazis had seized.

Fletcher's charcaters are well drawn and real, his themes are deep and the plot is creative and effectively paced. Surprisingly, though, the book is effective in spite of, and not because of, the prose which all too often I found to be trite, colloquial and ordinary. Phrases such as "it gives me the creeps", "don't be melodramatic, girl" and "psyching himself up" violate the mood that is otherwise set by the story and are not befitting the complex characters.

The characters and plot, however, are so strong that Jacob's Oath is nevertheless a good book. With a more refined literary style, however, this could have been a great book, and I regret the missed opportunity.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Beth B. (New Wilmington, PA)
Return, revenge, survival, good and evil
Positives: well-researched, lusciously constructed sentences sprinkled throughout, recommended for book clubs who like to chew on existence issues such as those listed in the title of this review.

I really wanted to like this book to the end, but found myself wishing there were fewer details ---location and street names that impeded the flow of the story's progression.

"Everyone goes home. One day. Where else would you go when the war ends? When the camps shut down. You'll come home. And I'll find you." Martin Fletcher's beautiful words at the very beginning beckoned to me but the interest was not sustained.

...12 more reader reviews

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Martin Fletcher, Special Correspondent, NBC News, has won five Emmies, a Columbia University Dupont award, and several Overseas Press Club awards. He served as the former NBC News Bureau Chief in Tel Aviv for many years, and now splits his time between Israel and New York City.

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