Allison's Reviews > Skeletons at the Feast

Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
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Nov 08, 11

Read in August, 2011

Don’t be fooled by the cover design (at least the paperback version), which makes this novel look like a war romance. While there is some romance this is totally not a romance novel. The back cover and other descriptions call this a “love story.” Actually, this is an epic novel that tells the story of a German family in 1945 Prussia that has to flee their sugar beet farm because the Russians are defeating the Germans and killing civilians as they take over their lands. At the same time, another story in the novel is about Uri, a young Jewish man who had two years earlier jumped and escaped from a cattle car that was carrying Jews to Auschwitz. His journey is in search of his family, which he had gotten separated from when the Nazis were rounding people up in his village.

It’s a complicated story with deep character development of Anna, the 18-year-old German girl who is fleeing with her family, her mother and little brother, Theo (who I just fell I love with – he’s an amazing little boy). Anna’s mother is a strong, caring German mother who is enamored by Hitler, as was apparently many German women during his reign. She had Jewish friends – even helped some who came to her door when they were fleeing the Nazis, and she had her picture of Hitler hanging on the wall. Anna and her family had lived basically in ignorance of the Holocaust, actually, in denial of anything like that happening to people. When the Germans brought some British POWs to the farm to lend them out as hired hands, the family took a shining to one young man named Callum. So they kept him on at the farm when the Germans came back for the POWs. This is where a love story appears in the novel – Anna and Callum, of course, fall in love. But again, the entire novel is about this journey of the family fleeing the Russians and the journal of Uri searching for his family – and the eventual crossing of their paths.

Uri is heroic character – he spends the two years up until he meets up with Anna’s family disguised as different German soldiers. He takes on different German names and he does what he can as one person to sabotage the Nazi effort.

I could not put this book down – this novel draws all kinds of emotions from you – anger, shock, sadness, joy… And it is the first novel in many years that I found heart wrenching in parts. I was caught off guard on one part and found myself crying on the train on my morning commute. I would have missed out on this book had I gone by the title and the cover design. They don’t give this great novel justice.
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