Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Book Review: Skeletons at the Feast

Why have I not read anything by Chris Bohjalian before? Skeletons at the Feast is my first, and I'm excited to have a long string of other Bohjalian novels to read. In this novel, World War 2 is coming to an end, and the Emmerich family—or what is left of it—begins the journey across the war-torn Nazi Germany to reach the British and American lines before the Russians catch up with them. Along with the Emmerichs, a Prussian artistocratic family, are a Scottish POW and a Wehrmacht soldier, who is really a Jew who escaped a train headed to Auschwitz.

Woven in with the story of the this group of refugees is the story of a group of Jewish women who are forced to march from one concentration camp to another as the war winds down. I read a lot of World War 2 novels, and the description of these women is exceptionally powerful.

I am teaching a class right now to middle schoolers that focuses on World War 2 literature through various perspectives. We've read Number the Stars (Danish resistance); Snow Treasure (Norway); and will read Sadako and the 1000 Paper Cranes (a Japanese girl after the atomic bomb). I really appreciated Bohjalian's bringing several different perspectives together in one novel: traveling together are former Nazi supporters, a Scottish POW, and a Jew. Along the way they meet all kinds of people, and ultimately cross paths with the group of women from the concentration camp. I loved all the mixing of perspectives.

For a great list of World War II reading, be sure to check out War Through the Generations. Some of my other reviews include:
Day After Night by Anita Diamant
Sarah's Key
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
I Have Lived a Thousand Years
The Nazi Officer's Wife
Jimmy's Stars (Mary Ann Rodman)
When the Emperor Was Divine (Julie Otsuka)
Briar Rose (Jane Yolen)
Night (Elie Wiesel)
The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak)
The Endless Steppe (Esther Hautzig)


Missy B. said...

I haven't read anything by this author either...I have one of his books on my bookshelf to be read. Skeletons at the Feast sounds good. I am interested in books about the Holocaust. A really good one is All But My Life by Gerda Weissman Klein, if you haven't already read it.

Leah Courtney said...

Sounds like one to add to my list. I read Midwives by this author. That was a good one too!

Laura said...

I'm so glad you reviewed this! I have to read it for a book club meeting next month, but I haven't begun it yet.

Thanks for getting me going!

Stephanie said...

I loved this book too! I also read Midwives, by the same author -- it was excellent.

Marg said...

I've borrowed this from the library a few times, but not actually managed to read it yet. I should borrow it again really.

Anna said...

I've been wanting to read this one for a while. It sounds really good.

I hope it's okay that I've linked to all of the WWII reviews you listed here.

Diary of an Eccentric

Greg Zimmerman said...

Nice review. I thought Skeletons was about 14 times better than The Double Bind, which almost put me off Bohjalian forever.