Denise's Reviews > Skeletons at the Feast

Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
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's review
Jun 09, 2010

really liked it
Read in February, 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 1/2 stars for a very satisfying novel..., February 7, 2009

This review is from: Skeletons at the Feast: A Novel (Paperback)

I know I have really liked a book when, after I have turned the last page and put it down, I can't stop thinking about it. Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian is one of those novels that I will have to urge others to read. The book has 3 separate points of view that describe the horrific happenings in Germany during the winter and spring of 1945.

Haunting and achingly beautiful, this is the story of Prussian aristocrats and a Scottish POW trekking west ahead of the Russian army that was coming up from behind them and the Nazis on the front line...hoping for timely deliverance by the British or American liberators. It is also the story of a Jewish man on the run after he jumped from a train likely bound for one of the Nazi deathcamps or extermination. And thirdly, it is the heartbreaking saga of a group of Jewish women prisoners of all nationalities who were conscripted and held in forced labor camps throughout the country.

The descriptions of the horrors of the Holocaust are well known to most of us, and yes, some are again detailed in this novel. But the book is also about hope and the resilience of human spirit. These characters from all walks of life are forced to confront the horrible truths about the Third Reich, about their own countrymen and allies, and about humanity in general. How culpable are all nations for what happened to the Jews during the time before and during World War II? Were the Germans who were ignorant of the Nazi party plans for the Jews responsible for what was done to them? Were the Russians justified in the horrors they perpetrated on the German civilians because of what had happened to them on their own soil? The cruelties both large and small visited on each other demonstrate that there was complete breakdown in the moral fabric of society in Europe at that time. Religious beliefs aside, what makes a just war? The novel raises questions about how personal and national responsibility can be obscured by events and fear.

All in all, a very thought provoking novel that will leave questions lingering long after the final page has been read.

Recommendation: Buy, and share -- talk about it with your friends and your book groups. An excellent way to discuss again how something like that did happen once, and hopefully a reiteration that it won't ever occur again.

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