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Spark of Life: A Novel Paperback – April 1, 2014

4.7 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“The world has a great writer in Erich Maria Remarque. He is a craftsman of unquestionably first rank, a man who can bend language to his will. Whether he writes of men or of inanimate nature, his touch is sensitive, firm, and sure.”—The New York Times Book Review

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Ballantine Books ed. edition (April 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449912515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449912515
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #913,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Cody Carlson VINE VOICE on August 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
In 'Spark of Life' Remarque proves once again that he is one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. A combination of literary skill, gripping story, and truly real characters put this novel on par with his most famous work, 'All Quiet on the Western Front.' 'Spark' deals with the final months of World War Two in a German concentration camp. 509, one of the longest held prisoners in the camp, is convinced that despite what the SS tell them the war will soon be over and the camp liberated. 509's fellow inmates, old and young, Jews and politicals, all draw strength from 509 and his will to not just survive, but to somehow stay human in a world where savagery is king. While the prisoners themselves hold to this hope tightly, the SS have their own worries. The camp commamdant's holdings throughout the small town are going up in flames as the British and Americans continually bomb the area and the guards are left with a choice: Run from the camp and risk treason against the Fuhrer, or exterminate all the surviving prisoners in one final orgy of blood. Once again Remarque has created a world so real, so certain, it both moves and educates the reader. All the horror, death, fear, and ultimatly the triumph of the human spirit that existed in these dark times are brought to life by a master story-teller.
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By A Customer on April 3, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is great. Erich Maria Remarque almost (and I repeat, "almost") outdoes All Quiet on the Western Front. 509, Lebenthal, Bucher, Weber, Neubauer, Karel, Ahasver, and "the sheep dog" are very engrossing characters, and I felt as though they were actually real people as I read it. The plot is great, and I could easily picture the setting in my mind. I was definately satisfied at the results between the conflict with 509 and Weber. The translation is a little rough at times, and the terms "revolver" and "tommy gun" were used throughout the story in a meagerly generic way. Overall, great book!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Another wonderful (and heartbreakingly sad) novel by Remarque........ He is my favorite all-time author, but not all his novels are This gripping and hard to put down - so I don't give this 5 stars just because of the author's name - Three Comrades is just a 3 star book I would say, for instance. Remarque is most known for his WW1 classic - All Quiet, and most of his books are set in that time period. This one is a story of the will to live and to be known as a human being, in a horrific WW2 concentration camp situation. There are a lot of characters in this novel and it is occasionally hard to keep a few of them straight, until further into the book - but they all do fit well into the tapestry of the story. At the heart of the story is a long time prisoner and his battle to hold on to his life long enough to get to the end of the war and regain his freedom. I've read enough non-fiction from this time period to know that Remarque surely didn't just pull this from his imagination after a brief look at the newspapers of the time period. Modern writers of historical fiction should study this book and learn from it! While his characters are fiction, the situation is entirely based in fact - from the hiding of politicals in the sick wards by trading identities, and the systems of 'trade' in the camps, etc - the background of this novel is based in reality in WW2 German camps. Remarque does a fine job of speaking for the millions who perished in these horrible camps. Remarque even manages to also place the reader in the mind of the Nazi's who futilely try to find a way to absolve themselves of any blame for their atrocities, at war's end.Read more ›
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By A Customer on November 24, 1998
Format: Paperback
A no holds barred tale about life in a concentration camp during the end of World War II. The primary focus of the story is about prisoner 509 who has survived over 5 years in the camp and his realization that the war is finally coming to an end.
However, Remarque, does take short diversions to other characters -- including SS leaders and other prisoners. This was interesting and showed the thought processes by all involved. Thought provoking, powerful, as well as scary.
My only gripe about the book was that there seemed to be a ton of characters. Sometimes it was hard to keep track of them all. However, I focused on the main ones and managed well enough.
Recommended to Remarque fans and those with an interest in the history of period. Also, a touching and powerful look at the atrocities that occurred in a concentration camp.
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Format: Paperback
As 509 is a German political prisoner, and not a Jew or Pole, this book offers a somewhat different perspective on the Nazi concentration camps than is usually found in novels. This is a powerful book, though it has Remarque's usual dark tone and 'unhappy' ending. I highly reccommend it as a complement to other fiction about this era.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the best books I have ever read. Here is a German writing about what other Germans did to prisoners before and during World War II. The descriptions of the horrors are graphic but not over done. I always felt that most, especially 509 who had been in the camp since the mid 1930s. I was engrossed in the book and although there was no mystery or science fiction (my favorite genres), I had a difficult time putting it down, after all I couldn't go without sleep for a few days just to complete reading this book.

I really liked All Quiet on the Western Front and because of that I purchased this book inexpensively, thinking if it were not good or too overwhelmingly graphic, I could always donate it and not feel guilty.

Initially I thought that although Spark of Life is beautifully written and very interesting I wouldn't reread it. However, now that I have finished it, I will keep itto reread it and also encourage others to read it. It can contribute to the thought that what happened during the Holocaust should never be forgotten, especially in a positive way in that the survivors go on with their lives trying to live in a changed world with hope. This thought is particularly true for those of us who did not live during WWII and knew very few people who actually fought in the war (2 uncles in the Navy and one coworker who was shot down over southern France and was in a prisoner-of-war camp for about 3 years until liberation).

I recommend this book highly, but you have to not be timid about horrible realities of life, although this probably under describes what really happened to the prisoners who survived the concentration camps
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