Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Fugitive Pieces” as Want to Read:
Fugitive Pieces
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Fugitive Pieces

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  15,470 ratings  ·  1,341 reviews
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Winner of the Lannan Literary Fiction Award
Winner of the Guardian Fiction Award
In 1940 a boy bursts from the mud of a war-torn Polish city, where he has buried himself to hide from the soldiers who murdered his family. His name is Jakob Beer. He is only seven years old. And although by all rights he should have shared the fate
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 26th 1998 by Vintage (first published May 11th 1996)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Fugitive Pieces, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Fugitive Pieces

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  15,470 ratings  ·  1,341 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Fugitive Pieces
Sep 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
it seems to be something of a goodreads sin to give this book any fewer than four stars. and were i rating it solely on the beauty of its language, it would be an easy five-star book. but as a novel, it missed the mark for me somewhat, so it is really just a high-three for me.

i know - blasphemer!

the poetry-as-novel thing can be a truly wonderful beast, or it can leave the reader wanting more - more story, more impact, more cohesion. reading this book made me long to re-read Justine, which is an
Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

A haunting elegy. Michaels pairs the story of an orphaned Jewish boy who clings to memories of the family he lost during a Nazi raid in 1940 with the narrative of a man whose parents survived the concentration camps but whose scars from the experience have a disastrous effect on the child they conceived after the war had ended. Crafted with luminous, poetic prose, this laudable addition to the pantheon o
"To survive was to escape fate. But if you escape your fate, whose life do you then step into?"

Jakob Beer is a Holocaust survivor. At the age of seven, he is rescued while on the run – a fugitive of sorts – from the death grip of the Nazis. His mother, father and beloved sister Bella are not so fortunate. Jakob will spend a lifetime trying to piece together the memories of his past and those he loved. The writing is simply astonishing. The prose often reads like poetry and the effect is quite p
Elyse Walters
Apr 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The story itself is straight forward and easy to follow....( not 'all' characters are developed fully), but the overall plot - and the depth of the plot is clear....beautiful in its ways....and powerful. The lyrical crafting is luminous.,

Jakob Beer's parents and sister, Bella, were killed in his home --victims of the Nazi reign in Europe. Jakob is now an orphan....at age 7. He flees into the marshes and forests in Poland and meets a Greek Geologist, Athos Roussos who takes pity on him -and smugg
May 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-stars-books
5 stars !...One of the wisest and most beautiful books I have ever read.....A book about longing, loss, grief, beauty and love....I would reread whole chapters, sentences and phrases and then actually either ache with wistfulness or weep with bittersweet joy. I felt myself transforming as I read this for the better and I think it will continue to have effects on me for many months and years ahead. A rare jewel that I will take out from time to time from its box and put it against the night sky a ...more
There’s a moment when love makes us believe in death for the first time.

I read and noted the presumed truth of that line: the fear of losing those we love. Now I feel and live it. When a friend recently consoled me with the idea that grief is love with nowhere to go, I knew exactly what she meant.

This is a beautiful and profound novel that I ended up finishing at a painfully and unexpectedly (in)appropriate time.

It’s about making a life after sudden death (“no one is born just once”), nurtur

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past”

William Faulkner

Jakob Beer understands love. He also understands loss. He understands love as only a man who has lost and found it once again can. He finds it in the faces of those who come after the tragedy and in the memories of those who have never come out of it. We all have our way to communicate with those long gone. Only, while we change, they stay the same. We wish to keep those memories alive for as long as we can. But time is merciless. When
Violet wells
Mar 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
This novel often reminded me of what a brilliant accomplishment Virginia Woolf’s The Waves is. There are parallels. The piecing together of shards, of fugitive pieces, the deployment of one narrative to unravel another, in an attempt to complete biography. It’s not, of course, as good as The Waves – few novels are!

The first part of the novel is narrated by Jakob Beer. He is seven when his parents are murdered by Nazi soldiers. His beloved sister, Bella is abducted and will become the ghost that
Fugitive Pieces is a tour de force that must be consumed slowly and savored, like a good wine or a piece of New York cheesecake. It is the story of Jakob Beer, a Jewish child saved from the holocaust by a Greek stranger. In a style that is beautiful and stark at the same moment, Michaels ferrys us through Jakob’s life as he deals with his loss and its impact on his future.

When Jakob’s story is complete, and you feel the book has reached its logical end, Michaels pulls a rabbit out of the hat an
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A novel that wants to convince us academics can be deeply feeling, sensitive to personal life and even sexy!

A seven year old Jacob Beer is hiding behind a wall when his parents and sister are taken away by the Nazis. He is eventually rescued by a Greek archaeologist and smuggled to Greece where he still has to do a lot of hiding. His saviour is a wise elderly Greek geologist with whom he forms a magical bond. After the war they emigrate to Canada together. Jacob becomes a poet. This is often not
Finally, I have finished this one. I loved the cover and a quick flick through excited me because the writing was poetic and lyrical and the prologue about lost manuscripts from people who wrote about the holocaust was tantalising.
The story is about a young Jewish boy, Jacob Beer who, while hiding, witnesses the slaughter of his parents and the abduction of his sister, presumably for the death camps, by the Nazi police in Poland. He survives living in the marshland outside the town until he is r
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1001-core, saddest
Together, my 75-y/o mother and her 82-y/o sister, spent a whole month (last month) vacation here in the Philippines mostly in my house. For few days, they went to our province, the town they were born. When they came back, my mother showed me a bunch of old photographs. Included in those were the pictures of her parents. My grandparents.

It was amazing how they could still tell the stories behind each of the photograph as if they were only taken a few years ago. When we came to those of her own
“I see that I must give what I most need.”

It’s not easy to sustain a poetic voice for almost three hundred pages though Virginia Woolf managed it brilliantly for two hundred in The Waves. And as a result of this difficulty this wasn’t always compelling. At times the writing is stunning and it’s brilliant how much poetry and pathos she manages to extract from everyday detail. At other times the unrelenting insistency on poetry felt a bit strained as if there was too much idealising going on.
Claire Fuller
Oh my goodness, this book. What a book. Densely poetic, stuffed with ideas and knowledge, rather experimental in structure, enigmatic with much of the story. And heart-breaking. I listened to it (read in a beautiful slow Canadian drawl by the author) and now I am going to go and buy a physical copy so that I can go back and reread sections.
Book 1 is Jakob Beer's memoir, not finished because he dies in a car crash (easy to miss this and get confused). He describes in snippets of circular memorie
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
Literary ambrosia. This gets at least six stars from me.

I stubbornly avoided this book for a long time because the promotional blurb just didn't make it sound appealing to me. I finally gave it a try so I could stop wondering why it won half a dozen awards and shows up on "must read" lists everywhere I look. I'm so glad I did! The blurb doesn't even begin to tell you about the book as you'll experience it while reading.

If you're the left-brain dominant sort who needs everything spelled out in
aPriL does feral sometimes
'Fugitive Pieces' is a beautiful elegy in narrative prose. It made me very sad. The book maintains a level of poetic creativity and exquisite writing about Holocaust survivors who are trying to live as normal people do and not to corrosively mourn forever after the devastation of the Holocaust and of surviving it.

Short version: can't be done. But making an effort mitigates the PTSD, even if it doesn't put the pieces all back where they were.

Holocaust survivor and poet Jakob Beer narrates the fi
Dec 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Sometimes (not always) it helps to persevere. Around page 150 I tended to close this book. Okay, the language was imaginative and poetic, but what was the story really about? And then it suddenly started to speak and gradually I realised what Michaels probably wanted to offer: pieces of our own past, for which we are on the run, or which themselves flee from us and with which we want or need to come to terms with.

In this case it revolves largely (two-thirds of the book) around the story of Jako
Jan 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
“I did not witness the most important events of my life. My deepest story must be told by a blind man, a prisoner of sound. From behind a wall, from underground. From the corner of a small house on a small island that juts like a bone from the skin of sea.”

Early in her brooding, shadowy, aching novel, Anne Michaels sets out the central conflict of her principal character, Jakob Beer. Jakob’s family is slaughtered one winter night in 1940; the seven-year-old boy hides in a hollow in the wall, the
Will Ansbacher

After watching the film of the same name, I wondered why I had not been similarly moved by the novel. Now I remember why I was underwhelmed the first time. The deeply moving, achingly intense first part of the book is irredeemably overshadowed by the clunky one that follows.

The first part is told by Jakob Beer, 7 years old at the start; he is in hiding when he sees his parents killed by the Nazis and his older sister Bella disappear. After fleeing he is rescued by Athos Roussos an archaeologist
Mar 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I want to put this book in a bowl, pour syrup over it, and eat it with a spoon.

It made me cry. Actually, it made me ugly-cry. What more is there to say?
Oct 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
There are few words to describe how annoying I found this book. I just don't seem to be either an Orange Prize reader or a good target audience for novels penned by authors who are, as Michaels is described, 'primarily poets.' I love poetry--it was actually my first love, and novels came later. I've also loved quite a few great novels written by first-class poets. However, this isn't a rule of thumb and is actually very often simply an exception. Poetry and narrative writing are just not the sam ...more
Jun 27, 2012 rated it liked it
I'm torn with this book. On the one hand the prose is so dense and rich, poetic and downright stunning. On the other hand the story left me a little hollow. Reading this I had the perpetual feeling that I was trying to see through a foggy window, barely seeing. And yet, there was so much feeling.

Characters appear as if in a dream and dissolve away. Frustrating? Yes. But isn't that how life is? People leave. People die. And we feel the loss forever, as the characters in this book do.

I'm not sur
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“The tombstones smashed in Hebrew cemeteries and plundered for Polish sidewalks; today bored citizens staring at their feet while waiting for a bus, can still read the inscriptions.” If only it were simple to find a way to read the words of this book through all these tears. I wiped them away and read on. There is an old Greek saying, light your candle before night overtakes you. I lit mine. A story of the ghosts and spirits still calling to Jakob. He is pulled beyond the rational to those subtl ...more
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
2 Stars - Okay book

To say that I was underwhelmed by this book would be a fair assessment. I did not connect to anything in this book. The story sounded promising but ultimately fell flat.

The structure seemed similar to a stream of consciousness and it did not work for me. It felt disjointed and confusing. Maybe I'm missing something but I think this style and form detracts from the story. Reading it was exhausting and slightly annoying.

The writing itself isn't great. It's not that the writing
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fugitive Pieces tells the story of Jakob, a Polish Jewish child, and Holocaust survivor; Athos, a Greek archeologist; and Ben (the Hebrew for son, not short for Benjamin), a poet and child of Holocaust survivors. It is not a linear telling as it moves from past to present and back throughout. The novels is permeated, saturated with memories, primarily those of Jakob. His escape from the Nazi devastation of his village and massacre of his family, survival in the forest, and escape. He is haunted ...more
Jun 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a reflection on love and loss in the context of the holocaust and those who survived. Jakob is rescued when seven years old (his family has been arrested by the Nazis)by Athos, a Greek archealogist; who takes him home and brings him up. You are told about Jakob's death at the very beginning of the book, aged 60 with his young wife. The story begins in Poland, then to Greece, Canada and back to Greece where Jakob meets the love of his life.
Anne Michaels is a poet and the language and desc
“One can look deeply for meaning or one can invent it.”

(3.5) Poland, Greece, Canada; geology, poetry, meteorology. At times it felt like Michaels had picked her settings and topics out of a hat and flung them together. Especially in the early pages, the dreamy prose is so close to poetry that I had trouble figuring out what was actually happening, but gradually I was drawn into the story of Jakob Beer, a Jewish boy rescued like a bog body or golem from the ruins of his Polish village. Raised on
Inderjit Sanghera
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
'Fugitive Pieces' follows the story of Jakob, whose manages to escape from the clutches of the Nazis only to land in the lap of the kindly, if lachrymose, Greek geologist Athos. The novel focuses on Jakob's attempt to forge an identity from a patchwork quilt of different experiences; his childhood is forever shadowed by the violence which severed Jakob from his family, his adolescence punctuated by the sense of rootlessness Jakob feels in Greece and later Canada and his adulthood by a moroseness ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This book is so many things: bits of philosopy, history, biography. In the very brief __ (prologue?) is written A man's experience of war never ends with the war. I have observed this recently in my reviews of some novels about WWI, and the soldiers who fought. In large part, rather than bits, this novel is the psychological effects of WWII and Jews. There are two parts. The first part is told by Jakob Beer, who escaped as a child, then was rescued, hidden, protected. The second part is told by ...more
Jul 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
There are so many books on the holocaust that it has almost dulled the magnitude of the atrocity. But this novel, written by Canadian poet, Ann Michaels, is phenomenal. Her lyrical sentence structure will capture you right away and the story line is profound. A young Jewish boy is the only one to escape a raid by the Gestapo on the family because he has hidden in a secret place in the pantry. After hiding in the woods (this is Poland) for many days, he finds and is found by a Greek archaeologist ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Larry's Party
  • A Day in Spring
  • A Crime in the Neighborhood
  • When I Lived in Modern Times
  • A Spell of Winter
  • In the Skin of a Lion
  • The Romantic
  • The Case Against the Sexual Revolution: A New Guide to Sex in the 21st Century
  • A Recipe for Bees
  • There's Only One Danny Garvey
  • A Gracious Enemy & After the War Volume One
  • Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures
  • The Idea of Perfection
  • The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939
  • The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy
  • The Stone Carvers
  • Forever a Stranger and Other Stories
  • The Underpainter
See similar books…
See top shelves…
From Canadian Poetry Online:

Anne Michaels was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1958. She is the author of one novel Fugitive Pieces, which explores the possibility of love and faith alter the Holocaust, with language marked by power, elegance, and integrity. Ms. Michaels, who has also composed musical scores for the theater, has said "when you put a tremendous amount of love into your work, as in any r

Related Articles

Danielle Evans was just 26 when she released her short story collection Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self in 2010, a multi-award-winning...
21 likes · 1 comments
“Love makes you see a place differently, just as you hold differently an object that belongs to someone you love. If you know one landscape well, you will look at all other landscapes differently. And if you learn to love one place, sometimes you can also learn to love another.” 170 likes
“There's a moment when love makes you believe in death for the first time. You recognize the one whose loss, even contemplated, you'll carry forever, like a sleeping child. All grief, anyone's grief...is the weight of a sleeping child.” 99 likes
More quotes…