Lori Redman's Reviews > Skeletons at the Feast

Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
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Apr 11, 12

bookshelves: historical-fiction
Read in April, 2011

The Emmerich family is a Prussian Jewish family who, until 1945, followed Hitler as their leader despite being Jewish. But then, both the onslaught of the Russian army from one side and the anti-Semitic German army from the other, led this family on a trek across Prussia and Germany to seek safety. On the way, they encounter a Scottish POW and a German SS who is not what he seems.

Until reading this book I had a very elementary knowledge of Prussia at all, let alone Prussia during World War II. I must say, I am still a little foggy on events leading to those in this book, or the state of things now. But this author has convinced me that I must indeed do my homework, because this is a fascinating, if slightly overlooked, time in history.

The family consists of Rolf (the father), Mutti (the mother), Helmut (Anna's twin), Anna (the main narrator), and Theo (their ten-year-old brother). They are, even coming from a world to which I am a stranger, very realistic and believable characters.

The plot is neither too fast nor too slow. The only downside to the plot is the addition of Cecile; an additional non-related character (who only meets the other characters in the last chapter). She is added, of course, to show the perspective of someone from inside a concentration camp. But by and large, she is an unnecessary character. Readers understand and probably already know the grotesque things that happened in the camps; the real jewel of the novel is the side of the story that is less talked about: thousands of families trapped by armies on both sides, trying to escape several enemies. There have been countless books about the camps, but none that I've heard of about the Prussian predicament except for this one.

I've never read Midwives, Chris Bohjalian's most famous novel, but I am definitely curious enough now to give it a shot. If you want a dark, haunting tale of WWII from a new perspective, I highly recommend this book.

(Reviewed on 4/20/11)
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