Audra's Reviews > Skeletons at the Feast

Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
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Mar 12, 2009

really liked it
Read in June, 2008

** spoiler alert ** This is a great story. The writing isn't perfect, but the story is multi-faceted and kept me interested until the very last page. Set at the end of WWII, it tells the story of a German family fleeing the coming Russians. It has everything I love in a book: a variety of characters, some moral/ethical dilemmas (small and large scale), some happy endings, some sad endings. People die, war is gruesome, heroes exist, people live. It's a great story.

From a critical standpoint, the "discussion" of Naziism and what the German family did/didn't know, or may have known, or did/didn't believed, could seem contrived, EXCEPT THAT this author got the original idea from a diary he read of a woman and her family fleeing the Russians. These people are probably a little naive and too well-meaning, but at the same time, it's unrealistic to believe that all Germans knew all of the Nazi agenda, and agreed with and supported it. If anything, like so many other post-WWII novels, this book is a warning against blindness - against watching the status quo change but not challenging the new regime, against living life and not questioning the motives of the powers-that-be. It's a lesson that should never age.
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Coco Yes, thank you! The point of all the graphic violence, in my opinion, was to portray precisely those points. As you stated, war is gruesome and people die. I was surprised by the reviewers who complained about the violence and wished it had been sanitized for them. It reminded me of the way the coffins from the Iraq war were not allowed to be photographed. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. If we don't remember the true horrors of Hitler and the Holocaust, it becomes too easy for people to deny it ever happened. I thought the graphic nature of this book, though difficult to read, made it a much more important work.


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