Professor's Reviews > The Sojourn

The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak
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's review
Nov 09, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: clams, book-program
Read from November 09 to 26, 2011

I really enjoyed this tale of a Czech born in the U.S. in the late 19th century, then, due to a family tragedy, brought back to the Old Country by his father. There his father remarries, but the stepmother is only interested in taking care of her own children, so his father takes him up to the mountains, where he learns the life of a shepherd, including how to hunt and to speak English. When a second cousin is left in his father's care, the two become as close as brothers, and when the Great War comes they join the Austro-Hungarian army, where their hunting skills are recognized. The pair are trained as a team of sharpshooters and sent to fight against the Italians in the Alps. There they meet up with their first real threat-an unbending officer and the enemy sharpshooter who is bedeviling him.

The book was recommended to me by a co-worker who is related to the author, and I'd heard a bit of the family history which inspired it, so I was intrigued to read the fictional version of it. I was also interested because of the Great War setting, specifically the Austrian/Italian front, which fascinates me....both because I know so little of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy at the time, and because my own family history includes a family friend named Louis Castelli that was on the Italian side in the campaign, and present at one of their great defeats. Through my father I heard some of Castelli's tales of horrors of that particular front and I've always meant to read more. From that angle the book is slightly disappointing, but since Krivak's aim was not a history of the conflict there, it is not a flaw with the book! I was surprised by how the book occasionally felt like a fairy tale or pulp adventure story, but neither aspect are necessarily a flaw and it's an enjoyable read, with a setting that, to me at least, was completely novel. Worth a look if you have any interest in late 19th century and early 20th century history, the Great War, or just want to read an interesting tale of one man's convoluted path away from and back to America.

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