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#416 ~ Skeletons at the Feast

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


Publisher’s Description

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.

17 Comments

  • At 2012.03.26 07:00, Serena said:

    This novel has been on my TBR list for some time. I’ll have to start moving it closer to the top.

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    • At 2012.03.26 14:30, Literate Housewife said:

      Serena, you’ve got to read this book. It really works to make WWII come alive. You won’t regret it.

    • At 2012.03.26 08:47, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

      I read this book and thought it was fantastic! So often, we wonder how the people of Germany just sat back and let the Nazis have their way and I think this book gave me a glimpse of what the average person was going through.

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      • At 2012.03.26 14:38, Literate Housewife said:

        Kathy, you are exactly right. This novel sheds so mucb light on how people living in Germany could have lived during that time without being fully aware of what was happening. I think that’s important because we are looking back with history’s judgment.

      • At 2012.03.26 09:41, Beth Hoffman said:

        This book is on my list and I’m eager to get to it. Terrific review, Jennifer!

        • At 2012.03.26 14:43, Literate Housewife said:

          I definitely recommend it! Let me know what you think.

          • At 2012.03.26 14:50, Beth Hoffman said:

            I sure will.

        • At 2012.03.26 10:17, Karen White said:

          I just noted that THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS by Chris Bohjalian looked interesting – had not heard of this author and now two posts in a row with her in it make me think I should check her out!
          I just finished NEXT TO LOVE by Ellen Feldman, a different approach to the damage caused by WWII – its about a fictional (but based on a real incident) town that loses 19 soldiers in one battle, and the repercussions to the families over the next two generations. Very moving and involving.

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          • At 2012.03.26 14:49, Literate Housewife said:

            I am really interested in reading more of his work. I’m a little concerned about how anything is going to compare with SKELETONS AT THE FEAST though. It was really that good.

            I have NEXT TO LOVE on my TBR shelf! So glad you loved it! Can’t wait!

            • At 2012.03.26 16:03, Karen White said:

              Darn it! Thought Chris was a girl. Oh well.

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          • At 2012.03.26 10:40, Jo-Jo said:

            I almost grabbed this audiobook from my library, but skipped it because the discs were so badly scratched. I brought it to their attention so I should see if they repaired them. I’m glad you liked it!

            • At 2012.03.26 14:50, Literate Housewife said:

              Go back and check! I hope they fixed it or got a new copy. This audiobook is great.

            • At 2012.03.26 12:11, Anna said:

              Glad to see you really liked it. I bought it awhile back but for some reason haven’t read it yet.

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            • At 2012.03.26 14:45, Debbie Rodgers said:

              Okay – you’ve convinced me. I’ve added this Chris Bohjalian to my reading list. Thanks for the tip!

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            • At 2012.03.26 20:57, justmom said:

              I just listened to this one last month and loved it. You are right about Callum, he just sounded like you could crawl into his arms and be kept safe.I have Midwives in my TBR pile so am thinking about trying that soon.

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