Skeletons at the Feast

Published By: Crown

Book Category: Fiction, Historical

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Reviewed by Julie Failla Earhart

Skeletons at the Feast is Chris Bohjalain’s twelfth novel, and for the first time, moves from Vermont to a more historical setting: WWII Germany.

There are actually three story lines in Skeletons. The first involves Anna and her family–Prussian aristocrats who are fleeing the advancing Russian army. They gather more than they can carry and join the long line of other Germans trying to move ahead of the enemy army. I have never really thought about Germans, who weren’t really a part of the Nazi movement, as displaced casualties of war. The Emmerich family’s trek through the frozen landscape kept me on the edge of my seat.

A second story line involved a young Jewish male who jumped from a cattle car on its way to Auschwitz. Uri survives by masquerading as a German solider. Having made friends with Anna and her family, Uri, or Manfred as the Emmerich’s know him, joins their march toward family in Stettin, where they hope to find safety.

A third, seemingly unnecessary plot line is that of Cecile and her trials as a Jew captured by the Nazis. Cecile’s story and how it relates to Uri/Manfred and Anna is not apparent until almost the end of the novel. It would have been nice to have a little more foreshadowing in Cecile’s story so that it would have a bigger impact on the entire novel.

At times, there is nothing new in author Bohjalian’s tales of hunger, fear, and brutality as committed by all involved. However, Bohjalian’s step-by-step descriptions of the impact that the war had on all three story lines punctuates the preconceived notions I had of that time.

The biggest disappointment of Skeletons at the Feast was the sappy, happily-ever-after ending. It made the entire novel feel more like a nightmare than the possibility of actually have occurred.

Armchair Interviews says: Story of extreme human struggles during war.

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