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The Hollow Bones

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  382 ratings  ·  104 reviews
Winner of the 2019 International Book Awards in Literary Fiction & Historical Fiction.
The Hollow Bones implores us to pay careful attention to the crucial lessons we might learn from our not-too-distant history.
'I remember you once told me about mockingbirds and their special talents for mimicry. They steal the songs from others, you said. I want to ask you this: how were
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Penguin Random House
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Average rating 3.38  · 
Rating details
 ·  382 ratings  ·  104 reviews

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Elyse  Walters
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
NEW UPDATE... many thanks to GoodReads friend, Marjorie, she just sent me a note saying that anyone who wants to purchase this book can go to Australia Amazon. She included the link in her message I received but I don’t know how to do that. ..,
I’m sure most of you can figure it out 🥰....
The book in Australia as a Kindle download is selling for $14.99.
I hope this was a little bit helpful.
It’s a terrific book and several of us are still hoping there will be a release of this book in the United S
JV (semi-hiatus)
Apr 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to JV (semi-hiatus) by: Elyse Walters
"I want to forget the darkness and remember only the good; illusion is such a temptress. It won’t be long before we will both float weightlessly, unmoored, our bones hollow like the birds'. I remember you once told me about mockingbirds and their special talents for mimicry. They steal the songs from others, you said. I want to ask you this: how were our own songs stolen from us, the notes dispersed, while our faces were turned away."
Written with esoteric knowledge and poetical prowess, Kami
Jeffrey Keeten
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jeffrey by: Elyse Walters
”I want to forget the darkness and remember only the good; illusion is such a temptress. It won’t be long before we will both float weightlessly, unmoored, our bones hollow like the birds’. I remember you once told me about mockingbirds and their special talents for mimicry. They steal the songs from others, you said. I want to ask you this: how were our own songs stolen from us, the notes dispersed, while our faces were turned away?”

SS-Sturmbannführer Ernst Schäfer is a man of destiny. He is de
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Hollow Bones is the fictionalized tale of Ernst Schäfer, an ambitions zoologist, renowned ornithologist explorer, hunter and scientist. Based on true events, this book examines his career, his relationship and Marriage to his wife, Herta, and how he gains the attention of Heinrich Himmler. In the 1930's he joins Himmler's SS for specimen collecting opportunities in Tibet. Himmler, a believer in the world ice theory, admires Schäfer and his accomplishments. The trip to Tibet is interesting, h ...more
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
This was a 4 ½ rounded down to a 4 because I thought the flow was at times disjointed, but that in no way detracts from my admiration for this author and the work and heart that she put into this book. I also found the ending to be somewhat abrupt.

It has been about a week since I finished reading this book and I’m still having problems summarizing the novel. I have read many, many books about WWII and all of Hitler’s atrocities but have never heard the name of the Ernst Shafer. He was a hunter,
Will Byrnes
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Will by: Elyse Walters
Part of him ached to escape from trying to be a perfect husband, a studious scientist, a spotless officer of the Reich. Tibet, like a sultry mistress, waited in the background, beckoning him irrevocably towards her seductive terrain.
They were each so different and yet the same. He had carved out who he was in nature, whereas she preferred to disappear in its folds, melting into its beauty.
The Hollow Bones is a tale of love, ambition, passion, mad
Lindsay - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
3.5 stars. A richly layered wartime story.

Berlin, 1938. Ernst Schafer is an aspiring zoologist determined to make a name for himself. His supportive young wife, Herta, accepts the long hours Ernst spends working in his office or away on adventurous expeditions. Heinrich Himmler approaches Ernst to lead a group of SS scientists on an journey to Tibet funded by the Nazi’s. The Nazi’s have their own agenda while on the expedition, while Ernst sees it as an opportunity to further his travels and exp
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
It is always shocking and amazing how many people escaped punishment for their vile and heinous crimes during World War 2. In both the Nazi movement and that of the Japanese empire, there were many allowed to go unpunished, some with just a slight slap on their wrist who then went out and were able to lead normal lives. Sometimes, it was luck, a clandestine escape, but on most occasions sadly, there were political motivations. The bottom line was these people were able to lead their lives while ...more
Nov 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Hollow Bones is a fictional novel drawing on historical events around World War II and in particular the life of Ernst Schäfer, a German zoologist, renowned ornithologist, hunter and scientist. The story touches on Himmler and his fascination with specimens that result in an exhibition to Tibet - a trip they were fortunate to return from with their collection intact. Ernst's wife Herta provides an intriguing and more peaceful context, than the horrors Ernst encounters but fails to ack
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader by: Elyse Walters
A big thank you to my friend, Elyse, for putting this book on my radar. I never would have wanted to miss it. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

In 1938 Berlin, before the war has started, Ernst Schafer, a zoologist, is discovered by Heinrich Himmler, who is forming a group of scientists. Their goal: to travel to Tibet and find the origins of the Aryan race.

The story is told through the eyes of Herat, Schafer’s wife. Kaminsky used photographs, diaries, letters, and films to piece together this compelling story.

Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: release-2019
5 ☆ Wow!!! I enjoy reading historical fiction in and around the WWll era and I have to say this is much MUCH different than any other story I’ve read.
The Hollow Bones is based on the life of the Nazi regimes little known villain, zoologist Ernst Schafer (German/part-Jewish. Yes Jewish, if you can believe that.) A hunter, collector, specializing in rare Tibetan birds. Ernst is invited by Heinrich Himmler to lead a team of SS scientists into Tibet to uncover their ancestral German heritage. Hitler
Margaret Mary
Jun 23, 2020 rated it liked it
The Hollow Bones retraces the life of Ernst Shafer during the rise of Hitler and the Nazi regime from the 1930s to the start of the second world war. Interpreting the impact on ordinary German lives, how they made sense of the growing despotic regime and carved their lives either to further themselves within the regime or get by without too much sacrifice.

Initially reading through the first few pages I had an expectation that this was going to be a great read. The lyrical and eloquent writing s
Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews
4.5 stars
In her opening Author’s Note, Leah Kaminsky states, ‘While The Hollow Bones is a work of fiction, it is inspired by true events. This is an invented narrative, fed by imagination, and I have used artistic licence with historical facts, geographies and character details’. Despite this precursor, the impact of The Hollow Bones by Leah Kaminsky on this reader was significant. I was moved by the hidden history, the brevity of the tale and the man at the
2.5 stars

The Hollow Bones is a fictionalised novel about Ernst Schafer, a German explorer and a zoologist specialised in ornithology, who was also in the SS before and during the WWII.

I was keenly anticipating reading Kaminsky's sophomore novel, as I loved her debut The Waiting Room.

Unfortunately, this novel lacked cohesiveness, as it had two different story arcs - one was the story of Schafer and his first wife, Herta, the other, focused mainly on Schafer's professional life, his explorations i
Theresa Smith
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
‘World Ice Theory is finally receiving the recognition it deserves, overthrowing that madman Einstein and his Jewish pseudoscience. The Führer has at last accepted it as the scientific platform of the Reich. And rightly so. We know the truth now, that ice crystals are the true building blocks of the universe, not those imaginary atoms. You, young man, will travel to Tibet to head into the bowels of the earth where Fire and Ice went to war, and the ancestors of the German Volk emerged triumphant ...more
Katie B
Aug 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
So glad I had the opportunity to read this one. This historical fiction book takes place primarily in Germany in the few years right before the start of World War 2. Worth reading in my opinion.

Full review coming soon.
I feel so lucky to get a copy of this book. It is published in Australia, but here in the US, the book has NOT been published and is hard to find. I don't know why, but I hope to campaign and find out!!

This book is an example of EXCELLENT historical fiction- well researched and covers a little known story. I think it took a lot of courage to write this book. Can you tell I'm impressed?

Before we get into the story, let's look at that gorgeous cover. That's a hoopoe bird. Its plumage is sensationa
Andrea Rothman
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Hollow Bones is a dazzling exploration of evil, love, and madness that had me turning the pages late into the night. Set in pre-Nazi Germany, Tibet, and an unnamed contemporary zoological museum that displays extinct animal species behind glass—among them a Panda with a tragic history and an uncertain future who is also a main character—Kaminsky’s second novel blends historical facts and magical realism with a deft hand, the result of which is a thoroughly provoking work of fiction. Until I ...more
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ernst Schafer was a German zoologist, hunter and explorer with a beautiful wife, Herta. In the 1930’s, Heinrich Heimler became interested in Schafer and his work. The SS funded an expedition of scientists to Tibet in a quest to find the origins of the Aryan race in the Himalayans with Schafer in the lead. But soon the horrors of the Nazi regime began and Schafer is pulled into the manipulative world of Hitler.

When Ernst was a young boy, he and Herta were best friends. When they met again as adul
Lee Kofman
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A captivating fictional retelling of the little known, and completely bizarre, part of Nazi history. I love the dark humour and the poetry of Kaminsky's writing. What a feat of a novel... ...more
Bruce Katz
May 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I have the feeling that I’m not the best reader/reviewer for this book. Others have raved about it and given it 4 or 5 stars. My reaction was more subdued. There were things in it that greatly impressed me, and others that irritated me. I won’t go into any details apart from noting that I found the panda material perplexing. How much research must have gone into writing the book, though! I thought I was reasonably well-versed in the social policies and programs of the Third Reich, but I discover ...more
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting story (historical fiction), based on true facts which happened in Germany in 1937, 1938... , about life and work of a young, German scientist, zoolog, Ernest Schafer, sent to Tibet (by Himmler) to discover the beginnings of Aryan race.
The style of writing is very light, almost too Iight for such subject, still addictive, engaging, a quick read.
The beginning of this book was very interesting, couldn't stop reading.
Didn't like the second part of the book, especially the part in Tibet
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
From the embers of history, Kaminsky weaves a cracking tale of adventure, competing loyalties and the folly of sacrificing reason on the ideological altar.
Mar 23, 2019 rated it liked it
2.5 stars from me.
Like an earlier reviewer, I'm at odds about this book. It is extraordinarily well researched and paints a chilling picture of how easily rational scientific minds can be seduced and subverted by the promise of funds for their research.
Certainly, the most horrifying part of the book was the final section which follows up on the main characters, most of which went on to take significant roles in Third reich atrocities, but were then exonerated and enjoyed long lives.
On the other
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘Soon we will both disappear forever, our story hidden away in dusty archives.’

Ms Kaminsky has based her novel on the 1938 expedition by Ernst Schäfer to Tibet. The expedition, funded by the Schutzstaffel (SS) to find the origins of the Aryan race:

‘You are to bring back evidence of what we already know is the truth – that our pure German blood comes from an ancient warrior race born in the foothills of the Tibetan Himalayas.’

In this novel, Ms Kaminsky explores what motivates Ernst Schäfer. As a
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Leah Kaminsky’s ‘The Hollow Bones’ is a rare bird in the world of historical fiction set in interwar Germany. From beginning to end, I found myself marvelling at the breadth and depth of this meticulously researched, finely crafted story about SS scientists’ zealous pursuit of science and pseudoscience. Kaminsky drew upon historical documents and various reference texts to form the intricate bones of a story about Ernst Shäfer – the ambitious and opportunistic German zoologist, explorer, and hun ...more
Jacquie Garton-Smith
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Hollow Bones is a fascinating read on multiple levels, and one that has left me thinking weeks after finishing it.

This is an extraordinary insight into Ernst Schafer, a man I had not heard of despite the calibre of his SS connections. Through Ernst's views woven with those of his childhood sweetheart, Herta, the juxtaposition of love, friendship and family, with scientific pursuit, ambition and single-mindedness during a dark period in history are examined. How challenging it must have been
Lucy Treloar
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book and Leah Kaminsky is a lovely writer. I thought I'd read a lot about this era, but this was a new corner, and filled with compelling material. I especially loved her willingness to take risks. Arundhati Roy said something somewhere recently about not wanting to lose the wildness in novels. She's right I think. ...more
Athene Alleck
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an incredible rich & complex book. History, biology, taxidermy, love, travel, politics and fantasy. Nazis juxtaposed with Tibetan monks ... innocence v ignorance ... the magic of feathers... and the absolute terrifying madness of the ‘Third Reich’. Will need to be read again!
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Now this was very good, no actually it was excellent! Through detailed research Leah Kaminsky has provided us with a novel with deeply unsettling characters and incidents from the past that I knew nothing about, until now. Based on true events that took place just prior and the early days of WW2. The misguided, powerful Heinrich Himmler recognises the talents and the cold ambition of SS Officer Ernst Schafer, a zoologist and hunter/collector. Schafer is recruited to lead a secret scientific miss ...more
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Leah Kaminsky, is a physician and award-winning writer. Her debut novel The Waiting Room won the Voss Literary Prize and was shortlisted for the Helen Asher Award. The Hollow Bones, won the 2019 International Book Awards in both Historical Fiction & Literary Fiction Categories. The Fish Council will be published in 2020. We’re all Going to Die has been described as ‘a joyful book about death’. She ...more

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