Saturday, June 9, 2012

Book 27 - Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian

I have been a fan of Chris Bohjalian's since I read Midwives back in the late 90's and I became even more of a fan when I learned that he, like me at certain points in my life, was living in a very rural community in Vermont. Skeletons at the Feast is his first foray into historical fiction, I think.

Bohjalian writes about the period right before the end of the Second World War. The Emmerich family are leaving their manor house as the Russians approach. The family is comprised of Anna, her mother, nicknamed Mutti, her father, Rolf, her twin brother Helmut, her younger brother Theo and the Scottish POW, Callum Finella, who has been working on the farm. Anna also has an older brother named Werner, that is referred to a lot, but whom we don't see because he is off at the front, fighting for the Third Reich. Rolf and Helmut eventually leave the family and the rest move on in an effort to escape the Russians. They eventually cross paths with a Jewish man named Uri Singer, who poses as either a Russian or a German, in order to escape persecution at the hands of either group.

I loved this book. I can't tell you how much I loved this book, because it is beyond words. I loved and appreciated it because it told a perspective that is somewhat different from what a lot of people think about when they think about WWII - the bombing of Pearl Harbor/Hiroshima and Nagasaki/the atrocities committed against thee Jews and gypsies by the Nazis. However, this novel reminded us that oftentimes average Germans were also targeted and victimized, although not as severely or as badly as other groups (they did have the benefit of being "Aryan" German). The characters in this novel lived in a very rural area and heard rumors of the awful things that their beloved Fuhrer committed against Jews and others but they never personally saw or participated in those awful events. They didn't even witness the mass evacuations of the concentration camps. In fact, when Mutti finds out pretty certainly what her beloved leader has been doing, she is so mortified and shamed, that I thought that she would kill herself.

This book was wonderful, easy to read and quite interesting.

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