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Caging Skies

3.07  ·  Rating details ·  3,076 ratings  ·  575 reviews
An avid member of the Hitler Youth in 1940s Vienna, Johannes Betzler discovers his parents are hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa behind a false wall in their home. His initial horror turns to interest—then love and obsession. After his parents disappear, Johannes is the only one aware of Elsa’s existence in the house and he alone is responsible for her fate. Drawing strength ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 6th 2019 by Harry N. Abrams (first published November 1st 2004)
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Average rating 3.07  · 
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Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This really was a book of two halves!

Whilst the first part was absorbing and gave a fascinating insight into the effects of propaganda on young boys in the Hitler Youth, the second half takes a dark sinister turn that makes for uncomfortable and quite frankly disturbing reading.

I’m not sure when I’ll get to see Taika Waititi’s take in the more satirical pleasing JoJo Rabbit, but the trailer seems like he’s taken all the best elements of the first part and enhanced it...

Leunens certainly sets the
Maria Espadinha
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Dark Fairy Tale

**************Some Spoilers Ahead*************

He was a nice boy like so manny others, until Hitler’s Youth caught him. He was sent to fight, got seriously wounded and had to return home. There he met a Jewish girl hidden by his parents who were both active opponents to the third reich.

What to do with that girl?
Telling the authorities seemed the right thing, but... that would be betraying his family principles. Hence, he remained silent.
And now, maybe you’ll start thinking about
I listened to this with my husband. We were inspired to read Caging Skies after enjoying the movie, Jojo Rabbit. Taika Waititi wrote the screenplay, directed and starred in Jojo Rabbit, which was inspired by Caging Skies. The movie was a great satire and Waititi's unique quirky humor added some levity. We assumed that the book would be similar to the movie.

At first, we enjoyed the book, which is well written. Then, gradually, it seemed to part company entirely with the movie storyline and go int
Maria Espadinha
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hitler's Monsters

Much has been written about the Holocaust, but no book has ever addressed all the manipulation and brainwashing that turned young people into monsters — slaves and servers of the Third Reich madness!

Boys and girls turned into twisted human beings, marked for life! ☹️

Hitler was the Frankenstein of Hitler’s Youth!
Aug 18, 2019 rated it did not like it
---- Disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads. ----

It started off okay, then it got pretty good. At a mid-way point however, after the parents are no longer involved in a larger part of the story, it really started to suck. From there it quickly got worse. The closer it neared the end the more I started doing things like skipping paragraphs, or jumping to find the next bit of dialogue & skipping other text. Then I'd skip a page or 2 before starting in again. If I hadn't proceed

There are books that you read and the moment you finish reading it, you know without a doubt that the book is destined to be a classic. This is exactly how I felt after reading "Caging Skies" by Christine Leunens.
The story reads slow and steady but don't get me wrong, it is a very strong and powerful slow burn. You will feel all of it.
The protagonists, Johannes and Elsa, are thrown together unexpectedly into a dependent type relationship. Johannes and Elsa's "relationship" is an enigma to the
Geonn Cannon
Oct 23, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe I'd like this better if I'd read it before seeing Jojo Rabbit (doubtful) but as it is, it finally lays to rest that "the book is always better" line.
CAGING SKIES is a very thought provoking novel which takes place in Austria during and after World War II. Johannes is a boy who is a Hitler Youth who is entranced by Hitler when he discovers his parents are hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa. Anger at his family turns into interest in Elsa, then an obsession/love for Elsa which is not returned. This book was a page-turner for me, and I highly recommend it to others!
Nov 17, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a drag, I can't believe I've managed to read it till the last page
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, owned
I mean, I haven’t seen Jojo Rabbit yet, but my feeling is that Taika Waititi got stoned, read the dust jacket of this book, forgot most of it, and made a movie.
Oct 04, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am having a really hard time deciding how I feel about this book. In many ways I hate it. I hate Johannes. I hate how he manipulates the people around him especially Elsa and blames them for his doing so. I hate how Johannes makes everything that another person does into a slight against himself. I hate that Johannes continually forces himself if Elsa for the first chunk of the book, then at some point she is all of a sudden interested in him. I hate that Elsa seems to literally change into a ...more
lark benobi
Oct 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
I waited impatiently for another dawn, tossing and turning.

Well, no.

This book is not for me.

And maybe it's not for you, either, unless you crave sentences that are about as tasty as burned oatmeal.

That said, if you happen to be one of those pesky readers who is sensitive to misplaced modifiers, then reading this novel will be less like eating burned oatmeal, and more eating old eggshells.
DNF about 33% in. Hate the main character and can see where this is going. I thought I could do it but after feeling more and more dismal as it goes on I decided I really do not want to read about a male character manipulating a woman into an abusive situation where the imbalance of power is sickening. Judging by the reviews there isn't a payoff for reading more.
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Caging Skies is a WWII novel like none I’ve read before. The plot is simple yet complicated. You have the familiar narrative of a family who, in this case, conceal a young Jewish woman (named Elsa) in their home. However, the family isn’t only hiding the girl from the outside world, but from their own son, Johannes, who is a supporter of Hitler and an active member of the Hitler Youth. The majority of the book follows Johannes after he discovers Elsa concealed behind a wall in the family’s guest ...more
Al Ornaz
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found reading Caging Skies a fantastic literary journey. Interestingly paradoxical in that it is slow paced while a lot is happening, Leunens' style manages to quickly get hold of my attention and drag me chapter after chapter deeper in some sort of insanity, a confusion of roles where the duel between the main protagonists, Johannes and Elsa let me wondering who is playing who.
The WWII backdrop is present enough to provide an environment of angst and oppression yet remains all the same subtl
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I adored the movie JoJo Rabbit. It was hilarious, and it was also heart-wrenching. And I deeply cared about JoJo, Elsa, and JoJo's mother in the film. I laughed out loud, I cried real tears.

So, this is the book that JoJo Rabbit is based on, and though the seeds of that script are in here, but that script and movie are definitely the product of the mind of Taika Watiti and the film is so much better for it.

Johannes in the book is just an awful, awful person. The war ends about halfway through t
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Read this one as I knew it was being adapted into a movie by Taika Waititi and wanted to see how he could handle such serious material. I’ve now seen the trailer and he makes a joke out of it. The story itself is quite interesting to start off with but then becomes a bit boring and I had to use all my resolve to actually finish it. Film looks worse. What a shame. Disappointed I wasted my time.
Jan 21, 2020 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 24, 2020 rated it liked it
I would be lying if I said I enjoyed this book, which may be approriate, as the story itself is predicated on lies. Johannes is a preteen boy growing up in a Vienna under the thrall of the Nazis and his idol, Adolf Hitler. Johannes is obsessed with Hitler, joins the Hitler Youth, and seems to be on the path to becoming an ardent Nazi much to the chagrin of his liberal-minded parents.

As WWII progresses, Johannes suffers a disfiguring injury. This keeps him more closely bound to home where he stu
Aug 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the more challenging ratings I've given. This book is not nearly as funby, even in a black comedy fashion, as I assumed from the blurb. It is primarily depressing, at times surreal, often uncomfortable, and in sections tedious.
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I really liked this book. I wasn't really quite sure what to expect, having read the synopsis and also having seen the trailer for the film based on it, Jojo Rabbit.

Leunens has a really developed sense of writing. She's good at delivering emotion and tone, even when you don't really want to be feeling the things you're feeling. For example, that you feel bad for a devoted member of the Hitler Youth, and that you continue to feel bad even as he's supporting the Reich and as he's continuing to kee
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What a strange book this was! CAGING SKIES was supposedly the inspiration for the movie "Jojo Rabbit," but the source material is radically different in both story and tone.

Like the movie, this is the story of an Austrian child who is awash in a naive, blind enthusiasm for the Nazi propaganda he's being taught in school and in Hitler's youth corps. However, when he discovers his compassionate mother is hiding a Jewish girl in his house, he is forced to face the ugly reality of the belief system
Kim Lockhart
Thank you to Abrams books and Overlook Press for an advanced reader's copy, in exchange for an honest review.

My take is that this is almost two books. The first two-thirds of the book are filled with intriguing, page-turning plots and interesting characters. The last third, however, is a bit strange, and that's when the book begins to wander and drag rather heavily.

The themes of truth/lies, imprisonment/freedom, and all the ways in which the human mind adapts to extreme circumstances are explo
Sep 09, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii, fiction, abuse
Okay to be fair part of the reason I really disliked this book so much was because of the book I read right before it (about sex trafficking and how victims are lied to until they believe in an alternate reality, where the abuser is their hero). That's how this book read to me. And I just didn't think it was funny. It's likely if I had read something else right before this won't have bothered me as much, but I didn't and this book was sad and really hard to get through.
Karl Schaeffer
Jan 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Picked up this book because the movie “JoJo Rabbit” is getting some Oscar buzz, and the movie is based on this book. Johannes, the main character and the POV, is a total shite. Completely unlikable. The book takes place in Austria from the late 30’s to the late 40’s during the rise and fall of Nazi Germany. The Austrian’s welcomed the Nazi’s with open arms and were even more Nazi than the Germans. Johannes, as a pre teen in the late 30’s, becomes an ardent, earnest member of the Hitler Youth. Hi ...more
Johannes gets sucks into the ideologies of the Nazi party when Austria becomes part of the Third Reich, and these ideologies are put to the test when he finds his family is hiding a Jewish Girl in the attic.

When I saw this was to be made into a movie, i expected a lot from it but unfortunately is disappointed.

The first 1/4 was really interesting, learning more about the Hitler youth, more about the ideologies and what that did to the family. However, from then on I felt it really dragged and w
Selena Winters
Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why aren't more people reading about this one??? Hopefully the movie will renew interest in it. While it has the slightest hints of The Collector, it is quite different in content. It is a perfect example of 'you reap what you sow', and I honestly had no idea where the book was going to go!
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a mostly engaging, interesting read, with a kick-butt premise, but a denoument that disappoints.

The dramatic possibilities are endless: a young boy gets caught up in the "exciting" brownshirt culture of 1930s Austria as the rise of Hitler promises the citizens greatness, military success, and ethnic purity for their superior race. The young man's parents, by contrast, are not at all sympathetic to the Nazi agenda, and this causes severe tensions in the house. Then Johannes discovers his
Blake Ingle
Mar 05, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
RH Walters
Nov 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Let me start off by saying that this book is nothing like Taika Watiti's movie Jojo Rabbit, which is why I wanted to read it. This book is much more sober and sinister, and like Olivia Manning's School for Love, shows how the little villains destroy our lives as much as the big ones, and society's ruin is carried out in tiny personal ways. Our main character experiences terrible loss and becomes a monster trying to work around it. Heavy work. The character of the grandmother with her nostalgia, ...more
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Christine Leunens is a New Zealand-Belgian novelist. She is the author of Primordial Soup, Caging Skies and A Can of Sunshine, which have been translated in over fifteen languages. Caging Skies has been adapted for film by director Taika Waititi, under the name Jojo Rabbit.

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“The great danger of lying is not that lies are untruths, and thus unreal, but that they become real in other people’s minds.” 2 likes
“The great danger of lying is not that lies are untruths, and thus unreal, but that they become real in other people's minds. They escape the liar's grip like seeds let loose in the wind, sprouting a life of their own in the least expected places, until one day the liar finds himself contemplating a lonely but nonetheless healthy tree, grown off the side of a barren cliff. It has the capacity to sadden him as much as it does to amaze. How could that tree have got there? How does it manage to live? It is extraordinarily beautiful in its loneliness, built on a barren untruth, yet green and very much alive.
Many years have passed since I sowed the lies, and thus lives, of which I am speaking. Yet more than ever, I shall have to sort the branches out carefully, determine which ones stemmed from truth, which from falsehood. Will it be possible to saw off the misleading branches without mutilating the tree beyond hope? Perhaps I should rather uproot the tree, replant it in flat, fertile soil. But the risk is great. My tree has adapted in a hundred and one ways to its untruth, learned to bend with the wind, live with little water. It leans so far it is horizontal, a green enigma halfway up and perpendicular to a tall, lifeless cliff. Yet it is not lying on the ground, its leaves rotting in dew as it would if I replanted it. Curved trunks cannot stand up, any more than I can straighten my posture to return to my twenty-year-old self. A milder environment, after so long a harsh one, would surely prove fatal.
I have found the solution. If I simply tell the truth, the cliff will erode chip by chip, stone by stone. And the destiny of my tree? I hold my fist to the sky and let loose my prayers. Wherever they go, I hope my tree will land there.”
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