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Skeletons at the Feast Hardcover – May 6, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
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—John Searles, The Today Show
"Reading Bohjalian's descriptions of terror and tragedy on the road has just as much impact as seeing newsreels from the end of World War II....While creating suspense, Bohjalian agilely balances the moral ambiguities of war....Right and wrong shift depending on the situation. Ignorance is tolerated and murder is justified. But Bohjalian does posit that one absolute exists: No one wins at war."
—Dennis Moore, USA Today
"Harrowing. . .ingenious. . .compelling. . .Judging who's right or wrong is difficult in Skeletons at the Feast, and one senses that's just the way Bohjalian wants it. . .A tightly woven, moving story for anyone who thinks there's nothing left to learn, or feel, about the Second World War. That Bohjalian can extract greater truths about faith, hope and compassion from something as mundane as a diary is testament not only to his skill as a writer but also to the enduring ability of well-written war fiction to stir our deepest emotions."
—Paula L. Woods, The Los Angeles Times
"Harrowing. . .Bohjalian spins a suspenseful tale in which the plot triumphs over any single sorrow. . .[His] sense of character and place, his skillful plotting and his clear grasp of this confusing period of history make for a deeply satisfying novel, one that asks readers to consider, and reconsider, how they would rise to the challenge of terrible deprivation and agonizing moral choices."
-- Margot Livesey, The Washington Post Book World
"A poignant account of the conflict's last year. . .Harrowing. . .In creating the Emmerichs and their relationship to Uri, Bohjalian has given us something new and disturbing. He has also created a wonderful character in the protected child, Theo, whose gradual understanding of what is happening to them is moving and real. . .Bohjalian has given us an important addition to the story of World War II, and, not at all incidentally, may expand the vision of those who may have avoided 'Holocaust literature' in the past."
—Roberta Silman, The Boston Globe
"Rich in character and gorgeous writing.”
—Jodi Picoult, Real Simple
"Bohjalian has shown a prodigious gift for exploring how people are transformed.”
"Chris Bohjalian has done it again! His latest novel, Skeletons at the Feast ... is more than well worth the read ... Along this journey we not only see the horrors of the war unfold, we see the individuals evolve."
—The Valley Voice
"A bittersweet story of romance, war and death, inspired in part by a real diary. . .Strongly dramatic and full of the heartbreaking horror of war, this novel is Bohjalian at his imaginative best."
—Carole Godlberg, The Hartford Courant
"Skeletons at the Feast is a prime example of a well-written historical fiction. Readers will feel the despair experienced by the characters but will be able to find the bit of hope that keeps them moving forward. Bohjalian provides a vivid and well-researched look at the horrors experienced by the characters and presents a more personal account of anguish caused by the events of World War II."
—Courtney Holschuh, The Huntington, W.V. Herald-Dispatch
"Intense and fascinating. . .Bohjalian masterfully presents the desperation of troops who realize their cause is doomed.. . .He successfully captures the humanity of one of the 20th century's most horrendous tragedies."
—The Rocky Mountain News
"This story mixes the nail-biting brutality of 'The Kite Runner' with the emotional intimacy of Anne Frank's diary."
"An extraordinary historical novel based on the exodus of Germans in eastern Germany escaping the Soviet Army's advance in the waning days of World War II. . . A sense of justice pervades all of [Bohjalian's'] books. He demands that we act humanely toward one another and understand and respect others' beliefs and values. . .Skeletons at the Feast is not a screed on good vs.evil, but it does inspire thought on man's inhumanity to man, and, conversely, how individuals overcome adversity with acts of kindness, civility and integrity."
—The Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
"Riveting. . .an unforgettable finale. . .Chris Bohjalian handles the context of this story effortlessly and has created characters so engaging that any reader will find themselves connecting with these very real people.. . .I hail Bohjalian's new novel and its fearless account of one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century."
—Ray Palen, Bookreporter
"This is the perfect novel for a book club because there’s so much to discuss. It’s vivid and heart-wrenching."
—John Searles, Cosmopolitan, on The Today Show, “Top 10 Summer Reads”
"Nail-biting, heart-ripping. . .The reader of Skeletons at the Feast is quietly checkmated by Bohjalian into a radical compassion we've heard somewhere before: Love Thy Enemy . . . I loved this unforgettable novel."
—Tom Paine, The Burlington Free Press
"A lush romance, reflecting resilience in the face of nearly certain tragedy....a trenchant epic that is both agonizing and enriching."
"A fictional tale of love, violence and redemption. . . Bohjalian deftly moves from the journey to the back stories of each character, fleshing out their histories and making their choices more poignant as their friendship and interdependence develop. Who will live and who will die? The author keeps up the suspense until the last page, with a surprise twist at the end."
—Capital Living Magazine
"Powerful . . . Skeletons at the Feast positively resonates with authenticity. I've read several accounts of that small part of World War II, but it took this novel to bring home to me, most clearly and vividly, the dreadful ordeal these people endured...[The Holocaust's] evils are more palpable when its victims come to life-and, in so many cases, death-in the pages of a well-crafted novel. Bohjalian allows the reader to know them and identify with them in a way that no photographs or program on the History Channel can match."
—A.C. Hutchinson, The Times-Argus
"Chris Bohjalian has written his finest novel to date, set against the brutal, waning days of World War Two in Eastern Germany....Skeletons at the Feast is Bohjalian's masterpiece. The power of the narrative will stay with the reader long after it is put down. Inspired by an actual World War II diary the author read, it will stand as one of the best novels ever written about one of the most brutal periods in history."
—Marvin Minkler, The North Star Monthly
"A deeply moving and engrossing novel. . .Bohjalian has created a microcosm of that devastating winter of 1945. . . he makes us care deeply for his characters. His terse, dry prose renders the most appalling atrocities in an almost stoic manner, doubling the emotional impact."
—The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Immensely readable...Bohjalian takes a fresh perspective and details the brutal realities of World War II in a novel that for once does not focus entirely on the Allies. Recommended for fiction collections."
“Careful research and an unflinching eye. . . Bohjalian's well-chosen descriptions capture the anguish of a tragic era and the dehumanizing desolation wrought by war.”
"Bohjalian is especially good at conveying the surreal 'beauty,' the misshapen lyricism, of the war-torn landscape: 'Even the stone church had collapsed upon itself…the once imposing pipes of the organ reshaped by heat and flame into giant copper-colored mushrooms.' From harrowing to inspiring."
“Bohjalian demonstrates an intricate historical knowledge and impressively illustrates the stark horrors of the time. . .A compelling read with its mix of history, romance and portrayals of strength in the midst of severe adversity: War really is hell, the book says, but the human spirit is ultimately salvageable.”
—Rebecca Stropoli, Bookpage
More Praise for Chris Bohjalian
“The Double Bind is the sort of book you want to read in one sitting, and it packs a twist at the end that will leave you speechless.”
“Bohjalian is a master of literary suspense. . . . [His] are the sorts of books people stay awake all night to finish.”
—Washington Post Book World
“Few writers can manipulate a plot with Bohjalian’s grace and power.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Bohjalian [is] America’s answer to Joanna Trollope.”
“Bohjalian beautifully captures those dizzying moments that follow a tragedy, when disbelief and horror give way to an attempt to understand what has happened . . . authentic . . . haunting. . . . In Before You Know Kindness, our eyes are opened to the possibility of redemption, even in these careless times.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Bohjalian proves once again that he is a master novelist.”
“The Double Bind is simply one of the best written, most compelling, artfully woven novels to grace bookshelves in years. Immediately after the spellbinding surprise ending, readers will want to begin again at the first page. It’s THAT good.”
“Superbly crafted and astonishingly powerful . . . Midwives will thrill readers who cherish their worn copies of To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“Chris Bohjalian’s many fans will be glad to know he’s back on the high wire, expertly balancing topical issues with the more timeless concerns of the human heart. Before You Know Kindness is smart, first-rate storytelling.”
More About the Author
His new novel, "The Guest Room" -- a literary thriller about a marriage in crisis, two remarkable women, and human trafficking -- was just published.
His books have been chosen as Best Books of the Year by the Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Hartford Courant, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Bookpage, and Salon.
His awards include the ANCA Freedom Award for his work educating Americans about the Armenian Genocide; the ANCA Arts and Letters Award for The Sandcastle Girls, as well as the Saint Mesrob Mashdots Medal; the New England Society Book Award for The Night Strangers; the New England Book Award; Russia's Soglasie (Concord) Award for The Sandcastle Girls; a Boston Public Library Literary Light; a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Trans-Sister Radio; and the Anahid Literary Award. His novel, Midwives, was a number one New York Times bestseller, a selection of Oprah's Book Club, and a New England Booksellers Association Discovery pick. He is a Fellow of the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences.
He has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, including the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Reader's Digest, and the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. He was a weekly columnist in Vermont for the Burlington Free Press from 1992 through 2015.
Chris graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from Amherst College, and lives in Vermont with his wife, the photographer Victoria Blewer. Their daughter, Grace Experience, is a young actor in New York City. Among the audiobooks she has narrated are "Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands" and "The Guest Room."
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Top Customer Reviews
This isn't the average holocaust novel, featuring mainly Jews in a concentration camp. This book takes a look at how this horrific time in Germany affected many different people. The main characters are a Prussian family who is on the run to find security in another country- a wealthy family who never thought the war would touch them and who did not believe in the autrocities that they were told were going on. Also on the run with them is a Scottish POW, which gives us the perspective of how this war affected those who weren't even citizens of Germany and yet they gave their lives. Lastly there is Uri who is a Jew who escaped from a concentration camp, and two women who did not escape a prison camp, where we see that sickening side of the war. I really loved how these characters were all sort of thrown together and we saw all of these different perspectives.
The tale is haunting, but what else can you say about the holocaust? More than the holocaust, this novel explores the darkside of human nature, but also the part in all of us that is a survivalist and preservere's. I read Cormack McCarthy's novel The Road last year and as I was reading this book I just couldn't stop thinking about the similarities. Maybe this book will reach those heights, it surely deserves it, as does Bohjalian's talents.
I couldn't turn the pages quickly enough in this absorbing tale of flight during the end of WWII. Each character becomes important to the reader and each of their fates matter to us. Mr. Bohjalian presents the stories of a variety of players, and through them we see the horrors of war, as well as the horrors of denial; there are Germans, Jews, women from a concentration camp, a Scottish POW, and an innocent child. Questions that these characters would have asked themselves and each other: "How did this happen?" "What were they thinking?" "Why does the world hate us so much?" and "Where did all those Jewish and Polish people we used to know go to?" are asked and answered in this gripping and suspenseful tale.
(Note to the editor: the use of em dashes to set apart long parenthetical clauses was very distracting and interrupted the flow of the narrative. Semi-colons or parentheses would have served better, in my opinion. If this is a specific style of Mr. Bohjalian's I never noticed it being so distracting before.)
The book basically deals with a mish-mash of people during the last days of World War Two - there is the 18-year-old daughter of a staunch Nazi supporter, her mother, younger brother; a Scottish POW; a German Jew disguised as a Nazi who escapes from a cattle train bound for Auschwitz and myriad others. Bohjalian defines these characters so well that I truly came to care about them.
What was unique to me in reading this novel was the grey area between right and wrong - in times of war, what exactly is right and wrong, moral and immoral? Uri the German Jew kills in order that he may survive, and is that wrong? We have good Germans and utterly deplorable ones, and many other memorable characters that make us truly ponder on the effects of war on the human psyche.
With its moral ambiguities and complex characters, this makes for a troubling yet riveting read and I look forward to getting acquianted with Mr Bohjalian's other works.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very well written. Some plots were hard to digest because of the reality of history. I really enjoyed readin it.Published 1 day ago by Roc
Too many characters and needed more development.
Too much info dumping. Skimmed passages and almost did not even bother to finish. Sandcastle Girls was much better.
A book that should be read by young people to help prevent us from repeating the mistakes of the past.Published 1 month ago by Richard
Although "dark", it gives the reader a clear view of those times, places, and human misery.Published 3 months ago by Donna L. Tufts
Wonderful book wonderfully written. Gives a good sense of the hardships and displacement of German refugees during the war, as well as the devastation and terror they experienced.Published 3 months ago by Carol Evans
I love Chris Bohjalian's books. This one took a bit to get into it but then it was hard to put down.Published 4 months ago by SKM