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Review: Skeletons at the Feast

July 15, 2010

As World War II is ending, German citizens are making their way west to safety and the liberating armies that are invading their country.  They’re traveling by foot – only a few are wealthy enough to have animals with them – carrying whatever they can in harsh conditions.  Many don’t survive the arduous trek succumbing to the weather or the lack of food and water.

In Skeletons at the Feast, Chris Bohjalian focuses on three people making the journey – Anna, the daughter of a patriotic German family; Cecile, a work camp prisoner; and Uri, a young Jewish man who has escaped from a death camp train.   The story alternates between each of their points of view.

Anna comes from a privileged background and seems quite naive at the beginning of the book.  Harsh realities soon set in and she shows just how tough she really is.  Her awakenings to the atrocities performed by the government are thought provoking.

Cecile is a survivor and an optimist.

She reminded herself that all she had left was her attitude.  Her mind.  They could take everything else from her: In the end, they might even take her life.  But they couldn’t take away what she thought.  They couldn’t take away hope.

Uri is a scrapper and gets by on his wits – becoming chameleon-like and changing himself whenever necessary.  For part of the story, he travels with Anna’s family and they all form a strong bond.

When I started Skeletons at the Feast, I thought it might be a difficult read because I found parts of it very brutal and disturbing.  Either that eased up or I adjusted to it (much like the citizens of Germany) because after a while, I didn’t notice it as much and found myself so absorbed in the book, I didn’t want to put it down.  I became very attached to the characters and hoped for the best for them.  At times, though, I had to pause and reflect on certain passages and at one point, I just had to set the book aside because I was crying so hard.

In the end, I loved this book – it made me gasp and cry.  It’s a story of love and hope; a story of human resilience and survival; a tragic story of war and death. This is a book you won’t want to miss.

In the author’s note, Chris Bohjalian says he got the idea for this novel from the diary of a friend’s grandmother who went on a journey similar to the one in the book.

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45 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2010 5:25 am

    I love Bojahlian’s books. I have this one too. I haven’t gotten to it. I’m so darn slow. Love your review too along with the video. Thanks.

  2. July 15, 2010 6:41 am

    Bohjalian is a favorite author. I’ve read ALL of his books; glad u liked this one Kathy.

  3. kaye permalink
    July 15, 2010 6:46 am

    Glad you liked this one so much. It must be wonderfully written if it brought out such emotion in you. I love those kinds of books! I don’t think we can even imagine how horrible it was for those who went through the war. Terrific review, Kathy.

  4. July 15, 2010 7:42 am

    Sounds like a terrific book. Thanks for the review.

    Thoughts in Progress

  5. July 15, 2010 7:51 am

    Thanks for telling me about this one. I really liked the review and it sounds like one for my wishlist.

  6. July 15, 2010 8:16 am

    Your review made me add the book to my list. Thanks, Kathy. I’ve read a couple of Bohjalian’s books – I’m a fan.

  7. July 15, 2010 8:41 am

    Beautiful review! I really enjoyed this one. It was extremely beautiful and yet powerful at the same time!

  8. July 15, 2010 8:43 am

    I have read several of Bohjalian’s books and was anxious to read this one. I couldn’t get through it and I rarely put aside a book but I did with this one. I found it so slow paced and boring to be honest, some parts were extremely depressing . I am drawn to books on WWII and the Holocaust and have read many but I couldn’t get through this one. Maybe it was my mood at the time, that happens:) I’m glad that it worked for you!

  9. July 15, 2010 8:52 am

    I have wanted to read this book for a really long time, and think it sounds excellent. I am so glad that you were so happy with it and that it tugged your heartstrings so much. I hope I have the same reaction!

  10. July 15, 2010 8:54 am

    Anything WWII instantly grabs my attention. I can’t read too many of them in a row, but love hearing about different points of view on this same time in history, and can’t seem to get enough of it. What a wonderful review! It is going on my war list.

  11. July 15, 2010 8:55 am

    Sounds like a wonderful read and the title had my interest even before I read the review.

  12. stacybuckeye permalink
    July 15, 2010 9:36 am

    Wow, it sounds very powerful. I don’t know why I’m not drawn to the WWII stuff like many are, but this one does look good. Interesting that he got he idea from a diary.

  13. July 15, 2010 9:39 am

    I loved Midwives so I bet I would like this one too.

  14. July 15, 2010 9:43 am

    This sounds very good. Every once in a while too I like a book that makes me cry!

  15. July 15, 2010 10:25 am

    I’m so glad this book is as powerful as I thought it was when I picked it up at the local Waldenbooks that went out of business. I cannot wait to get to it.

  16. July 15, 2010 10:34 am

    I picked this one up when it first came out and didn’t get to it because it was due before I could read it…I need to get my hands on a copy because I really enjoy this author.

  17. July 15, 2010 11:01 am

    Great review! I’ve never read Bohjalian, though I’ve had my eye on his books for a while now.

  18. July 15, 2010 2:47 pm

    Sounds like a wonderfully affecting book. I’m Holocausted out at the moment, but I’m putting it on my wishlist.

  19. July 15, 2010 3:12 pm

    I have always wanted to read this but just did not feel ready yet…you are very brave.

  20. July 15, 2010 3:30 pm

    Wow.. it must be a beautiful read. I am so glad to have read your book. Sounds like one for the shelf! Thank you.

  21. Beth Hoffman permalink
    July 15, 2010 3:38 pm

    Fantastic review, Kathy. I will definitely add this book to my list.

  22. July 15, 2010 4:06 pm

    What a great review, Kathy. This sounds like a really good read.

  23. July 15, 2010 5:23 pm

    I am glad to see your review–I have had this one on my Kindle for probably two years without even giving it a shot!

  24. July 15, 2010 7:57 pm

    That idea of the people adjusting to the horrors was on my mind when I read “Night”. Enjoyed your reveiw, Kathy, and will keep my eye out for a copy of this one.

  25. July 15, 2010 8:11 pm

    wow, this one sounds great. I will have to add this to my wishlist. I think I read Midwives by this author. I loved that book!

  26. July 15, 2010 8:30 pm

    I’m glad to see you think so highly of this book. I bought it with my Christmas money and can’t wait to get to it.

    I’ll link to your review on War Through the Generations.

  27. July 15, 2010 10:26 pm

    I have this one on my to buy list based on a half-hearted recommendation, so I’m thrilled to see such a positive review.

  28. July 15, 2010 11:39 pm

    I hadn’t even heard of this author until now; so I’m going to have to look into the other books as well as this one! The holocaust definitely is a tough subject to read about no matter what, but this one seems especially moving.

  29. July 15, 2010 11:55 pm

    it’s been sooo long since a book made me cry! glad this one touched you and that it was a good read. thanks for the review, kathy. 🙂

  30. July 16, 2010 12:53 am

    Thanks for the wonderful review! This book has been on my TBR ever since it was first published. I must get to it!

  31. July 16, 2010 6:52 am

    My eyes well up just reading about the book. Great review. I’m so pleased that you were as taken by the book as I was.

  32. July 16, 2010 2:00 pm

    I have got to read a book that made you gasp and cry! I’ve never heard anything but great things about this book and I can see why from your review.

  33. July 16, 2010 8:13 pm

    Sometimes I need and like a book that makes you cry like that.

  34. July 16, 2010 10:23 pm

    Good review…..I’ve clipped your post so I remember to pick this one up!

  35. July 16, 2010 10:44 pm

    Great review Kathy! It sounds like this book really affected you. I have a few of his books but have yet to read one.

  36. July 17, 2010 11:58 am

    I haven’t seen this book before, but your review makes it sound very good. I love the cover image too.

  37. July 17, 2010 12:43 pm

    I haven’t heard of this book before either but now I have to find it or at least something by this author. I also like books that are able to move me emotionally.

  38. July 18, 2010 2:09 pm

    Awesome review! I just won this book.. so I’m quite excited to read it!

  39. July 18, 2010 6:54 pm

    I’ve only read one book by this author and loved his writing style. This one is on my TBR pile and hopefully I will get to it sooner than later. I am glad you enjoyed it so much, Kathy!

  40. July 19, 2010 12:00 pm

    I know enjoyed is not the right word to use when describing this book, but I found it to be a thrilling read. It really made me think about what I would have done if I was in their shoes. He is an excellent writer and I look forward to reading his back list.

  41. July 20, 2010 10:02 am

    i’m glad you enjoyed this book so much! i really think this is going to be a book i would enjoy! i’m adding it to the list.

  42. July 20, 2010 4:21 pm

    It sounds like the type of book I would enjoy. I feel odd saying enjoy about a book with this type of topic, but you know what I mean. Thanks for the great review.

  43. July 25, 2010 4:42 pm

    I loved this book! It’s one of my favorites by this author. So glad you enjoyed it, too! I am in love with historical fiction set in this time period.

  44. August 1, 2010 4:00 pm

    I really enjoyed this one, too. I thought it came from an interesting perspective

  45. August 4, 2010 8:21 pm

    This is certainly my type of book. Thank you, Kathy! I can totally relate how a book can leave you crying and all that. I just had one of those times last night. I still can’t get over it.

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