Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
Published by: Crown Publishing
Published on: May 6, 2008
Page Count: 368
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Reading Format: Audiobook rented from my local public library
Audiobook Published by: Random House Audio
Narrator: Mark Bramhall
Audiobook Length: 12 hours 13 minutes
Available Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook
In January 1945, in the waning months of World War II, a small group of people begin the longest journey of their lives: an attempt to cross the remnants of the Third Reich, from Warsaw to the Rhine if necessary, to reach the British and American lines.
Among the group is eighteen-year-old Anna Emmerich, the daughter of Prussian aristocrats. There is her lover, Callum Finella, a twenty-year-old Scottish prisoner of war who was brought from the stalag to her family’s farm as forced labor. And there is a twenty-six-year-old Wehrmacht corporal, who the pair know as Manfred–who is, in reality, Uri Singer, a Jew from Germany who managed to escape a train bound for Auschwitz.
As they work their way west, they encounter a countryside ravaged by war. Their flight will test both Anna’s and Callum’s love, as well as their friendship with Manfred–assuming any of them even survive.
Review from My Bookshelf
I picked up this novel on a whim while skimming the audiobook collection at my local pubic library. I’d always wanted to read Chris Bohjalian and when I saw that Mark Bramhall narrated Skeletons at the Feast, the choice was clear. Mark Bramhall is a talented narrator and I loved what he did with this novel. I particularly liked what he did with Callum’s accent. It sounded warm and comforting, just perfect for the character. Just as with the novel itself, Bramhall’s work was strong from beginning to end.
Earlier this month, my husband’s family buried one of its own. William M. Conner, aged 87, served his country during World War II. He was part of the second wave on Normandy beach, fought during the Battle of the Bulge, and helped liberate a concentration camp in Germany. As I took part in the solemn military graveside service, I thought a lot about Skeletons at the Feast and my reaction to it. I relived some of the less pleasant moments in that story and reflected on how Uncle Bill saw that and probably so much worse. That he was able to return to Virginia and live the good and kind life that he did thereafter is a testament to his character and the human spirit. In that, Uncle Bill and Chris Bohjalian’s characters have much in common.
Skeletons at the Feast is a fantastic novel about the true toll of warm on a continent, a race, a family, and an individual. Due to the subject matter, it was not the easiest book to read. While fiction may be seen as a means to escape reality, when done well it is also a way to sit vigil for those who have lived through atrocities. I am grateful that Mark Bramhall finally gave me the gentle shove I needed to pick up a Chris Bohjalian book. I very highly recommend this novel.