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on October 15, 2013
The human spirit is indestructable. This has been shown in our human history over and over again. It ia also so in Martin Fletcher's new novel "Jacob's Oath". This is a diary of various moments in the lives of Jacob and Sarah during WW II and its aftermath. Having lost everything, family, home, all suport systems, totally subjected to the kind of torture we humans are capable of, these two Jews try to survive in an environment that hates them. Jacob is a survivor of Bergen-Beslsen, torture camps for Jews. He witnessed the killing of his little brother. Sarah had lost the love her life, Hoppi, one night in a deserted cemetery she prematurely gives birth to her baby. Baby is born dead. She is alone and terrified as the chance of life coming to an end instantly, either at the hands of the Soviets of the Nazis, is a given. Sarah and Joseph meet by chance while hiding and together attempt to survive meantally and physically. Sarah has many emotional scars. The vivid descriptions of foraging for food, cigarette butts, as well as, safety are vivid. Sarah is helped by and American GI after being brutally raped. The soldier takes her to a hospital. Eventually Sarah and Jacob fall in love. They are not able to move on with their lives until Jacob is able to avenge the murder of his little brother Maxie. The pshychological scars are receding somewhat for the two of them but all is definately not well. There are many moments here in this novel where I had to put the book down and go for a little walk to air out my head. It is an amazing, yet, a very disturbing story. Surely required reading for generations who are interested in WW II and those who are interested in what exactly happened in the distant past. There are not many left who can tell the human history of WW II in the first person. We must read and learn about those times so as to help prevent this from ever happening again. This book is a lesson in geopgraphy, human prejudice, fear and above all history.

Gunta Krasts Voutyras
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on October 15, 2013
Martin Fletcher has such a natural voice as a novelist that he effortlessly evokes emotions in the reader while providing profound insights into a crucial and terrible time in European history. When the Second World War ended, the struggle for survival did not cease for millions who had made it that far. Fletcher gives us a chronicle of that time with wit and beautiful writing that offers both a moving love story and a terrific thriller.
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on December 25, 2013
I liked the construction of this novel very much. The story moves along nicely and I really felt as though I was there. The atmosphere of the times is really there; at least it felt that way to me. An important part of WWII books - you need to feel the period and this book has that going for it. Tragic storyline with a silver lining.
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on October 8, 2013
The highest compliment I can give any novel is that whatever I was doing I couldn't wait to stop and get back to it.Absolutely the case here.A really good read that will leave you thrilled to be alive and thankful for what you have.
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on May 23, 2015
The book is fiction, but the author had done a lot of research in Germany in order to make the background to the novel authentic. The book begins in May 1945 after the surrender of Nazi Germany to the Allies. Germany is in chaos and many former SS soldiers were returning home. A mixture of US, British and Russian soldiers are in Germany ensuring order. In this chaotic situation are many refugees, including Jews, who were liberated from Bergen-Belsen and other concentration camps.

Jacob Klein, a Jewish survivor of Bergen-Belsen, was discharged from hospital after undergoing treatment and was making his way to Heidelberg, his home town, in the hope of finding his home. He was also determined to find "The Rat" an SS Guard who had murdered his younger brother, Maxi. He was witness to the murder. He made an oath that he would kill The Rat as revenge for his brother's murder.
The book relates his experiences in detail of his quest, including a love affair with Sarah Kaufmann, who had also been through hell escaping the Nazis. He met her in Heidelberg to which she had also returned. The Rat was also from Heidelberg. Both main characters went through hell during the Nazi occupation and survived their ordeal. They were the only Jews in Heidelberg at that time. Sarah spent three years hiding from the Nazis and was eventually raped by a Russian soldier.

The book has everything in it to make it an engrossing and thrilling read. The love relationship between Jacob and Sarah is very dramatic. Both characters were scarred from the nightmare of their experiences. Jacob is determined to take revenge, while Sarah felt that he must try and put his vengeful feelings behind him and get on with their future together.

Sarah had a lover before Jacob, His name was Hoppi and she had fallen pregnant and lost her baby. Hoppi had disappeared and his fate was unknown, presumably dead. She had visions of seeing her previous lover with whom she still felt very attached.
This story makes for a gripping read from the beginning to end. The ending is very unexpected.

This book deserves a 5-star rating and it is one of few novels written about the immediate post-World War 2 period in Germany.
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VINE VOICEon October 11, 2013
I was enraptured by JACOB'S OATH from the first page to the last. It takes place at the very ending of World War II in Germany and the few months which follow. Jacob who is in his mid-twenties has nearly died many times in his concentration camp; he watches a sadistic camp guard kill his beloved younger brother and vows to find the man and kill him, setting out when liberated on the crowded roads towards Heidelberg. What a fascinating portrait of the rubble of a world, and the straggling people making their way towards their old homes! Sarah, also Jewish, has somehow come through the war in Berlin without incarceration, only to be brutally raped by a Russian soldier. She also sets out to Heidelberg against all hope to find her sweetheart who likely died in the camps. The two battered young people find each other and begin to make a life together, but Jacob is torn between his blossoming new love and his promise to avenge his brother, which will possibly end in his own death. In addition he is a man of peace and not a killer. The characters are faced with impossible choices and we never know which ones they will make until the last pages. I was moved to tears. Highly recommended!
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on December 5, 2013
A totally compelling read, Jacob's Oath is Holocaust fiction that seems emotionally and historically accurate. The book takes places in the last days of the war and the first days of liberation. The book is unusual in its focus on the early days of liberation, and hint at the complexity of the task of survivors to re engage in life. The characters both tell a story of that very particular time and come to life so that they were floating in my head long after I finished reading the book.
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on November 8, 2013
*Jacob's Oath* by Martin Fletcher: One Reader's Review

It takes unspeakable fortitude and significant literary artistry to carry off a novel embedded -- including not only the plot but the very psyches of the characters -- temporally, geographically and thematically in the immediate aftermath of perhaps the most notorious program of genocide in human history, the Holocaust.***

What is quickly and increasingly clear to the reader -- thanks to Fletcher's sophisticated crafting of the text of this narrative -- is that after the complete subversion of Humanity and Life as principles and the eradication of so much of both as a matter of fact, these two hearty pillars can strangely enough be spotted again holding things up somehow in daily existence for the survivors. Indeed, sometimes human connection and the most normal and healthy rhythms of life are seen to emerge during or in absurd proximity to the most unusual and alienating situations the characters' face. This thematically significant pattern is exemplified by the love story, undermining from the outset our protagonist's vengeful project. which is used to frame the plot generally. Falling in love and settling down to raise a family arise naturally and beautifully as opportunities for change and growth in the protagonists' lives, but Jacob's entire existential project fundamentally undermines this personally desirable and otherwise natural development it would seem.

To sum it up, Fletcher's writing supplies the emotional depth and sincerity, as well as the intellectual sophistication, to match well the intense issues inevitably raised by the novel's storyline. Seriously, the narration is pitch perfect throughout; this is a great novel.

Thank you for reading my ideas; I hope they prove somehow useful or somewhat entertaining. I would like to thank the author himself and St. Martin's Press via its Read-It-First newsletter, which gave me access to this great read -- first in the form a sizable excerpt emailed to me and later as a hard copy of the novel I won through a newsletter/excerpt-associated giveaway.
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on December 29, 2013
A most engaging book about a subject that should be more often explored - the aftermath of war and its effects on those remaining in the countries most affected by said confrontation. The ramifications of WWII continue to be revealed through the years.The author does an exceptional job of portraying the losses and dearth of comforts facing Europe after the war. Today, politicians seem mute to these issues.
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on November 24, 2013
Just weeks before Germany surrendered in April 1945, Jacob Klein's young brother, Maxie, who was suffering from typhoid, was killed by a savage Nazi guard. As Maxie died, Jacob promised him would get revenge. As he prepared to leave Bergen-Belsen, Jacob saw the guard, Rat, walking out. He was in no position to follow him or keep his promise at that time but was determined to go to Heidelberg, where they both had lived, find Rat, and kill him.
Sarah Kaufman, also from Heidelberg, promised her lover, whom she planned to marry, that they would meet in Heidelberg after the war if they were still alive. She survived by being hidden by good Christians only to be attacked by one of the liberating Russian soldiers.
Though it was difficult, both Jacob and Sarah met in Heidelberg, the only two Jews to have returned by the end of May. They meet and fall in love.
Jacob keeps watching out for Rat to return so he can carry out his oath. Sarah is afraid if he does so he will be caught and arrested, thus ruining any chance of them having a future together.
While neither of them are aware of it, there is a Jewish Brigade hit team targeting former SS officers.
Moral questions form a large part of the plot: Is someone from whom everything was taken guilty for stealing items to survive from people who may or may not have personally stolen from him? Was violence ever the answer? If so, what about other family members who would be directly affected by the retaliation? What should people do if those in control, in this case the liberating army, do not differentiate between the victims and the perpetrators? What would be the effect of killing a few former brutal Nazis? Are there limits to promised, hatred, love? What future is there for Jewish survivors who return to their prewar homes? The characters explain the desperate need for personal, often sexual relationships among the survivors. However, I think it was too detailed and distracted from the main story.
Martin Fletcher raise an interesting concept: "We all live with delusion...; it's our best weapon of survival. If we don't delude ourselves about ourselves, how can we live with ourselves?" It is the foundation for much of the story.
JACOB'S OATH was a well-written, fast-paced novel with and O.Henry-like ending.
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