In January 1945, in the waning months of World War II, a small group of people begin the longest journey of their lives: an attempt to cross the remnants of the Third Reich, from Warsaw to the Rhine if necessary, to reach the British and American lines.
Among the group is 18-year-old Anna Emmerich, the daughter of Prussian aristocrats. There is her lover, Callum Finella, a 21-year-old Scottish prisoner of war who was brought from the stalag to her family's farm as forced labour. And there is 26-year-old Wehrmacht corporal, who the pair know as Manfred - who is, in reality, Uri Singer, a Jew from Germany who managed to escape a train bound for Auschwitz. As they work their way west, they encounter a countryside ravaged by war. Their flight will test both Anna's and Callum's love, as well as their friendship with Manfred - assuming any of them survive.
©2008 Chris Bohjalian; (P)2008 Bolinda Publishing
I thought this book provided valuable insights into the lives of many Europeans during World War II, and examines the period from the inside out, with microscopic detail. Chris Bohjalian does not disappoint in revealing the moral conflicts and ambiguities of individuals caught up in forces beyond their control, and the reader must realize ultimately that we are all human, and have human actions and reactions, event though caught up in the changing tides of global conflict. This was preferable as a story line, in my opinion, to the plethora of other WW II novels which focus on the big picture or offer us cloak-and-dagger spy stories.
But I do think this latest was missing something in its larger focus. Bohjalian is best when he uses a smaller lens to filter the family and social conflicts that make us all question our motives and behaviors, and cause us to hit the wall when we confront others with differing histories, situations and attitudes.
Bohjalian is to be commended for the variety of the issues he explores in each of his books, and I am reasonably certain that I have read them all. He is never content to always stay with what works, and is persistent in his discovery of new and difficult situations to present in his novels. But "Skeletons", I thought, was so large a canvas that it missed the interesting details of the inner landscape of each of the characters.
The narrator is talented and gifted with characterization and regional accents, but the language-specific narration was really something I could have done without. A straight reading in the narrator's own accent and speech patterns would have worked better.
I would be quite interested in attending a Bohjalian event centered around this book, as I think there is more to discover than what I have mentioned here.
Very interesting material - I learned things I had no idea about - ie. Dresden. Once I learned of what happened at Dresden I HAD to go research it, I HAD NO IDEA the extent of damage or casualties. From this research I also learned this is where Slaughterhouse Five was conceived since KV was a POW and held in an actual slaughterhouse (which ultimately saved him.) Some is very hard to listen to - this entire autrocity is hard to concieve for me - hard to comprehend how humans can turn so vicious OR HOW MASSES of people can just roll over and ""obey"" This book gives a look from various perspectives - I highly recommend for those seeking/interested in the human spirit, life, war, love, family, courage, this time in our history - glimpses of our future?
I had not considered before what life was like for German citizens during WW2. This story was so real,unflinchingly gruesome but I couldn't stop listening. I was cheering for all of the characters to live through their march to the West.
I loved Bohjalian's Double Bind and although this was my second choice for a long road trip, it was amazing. I was immediately hooked and taken into the story. I was mesmerized by the story of Anna and her family as they the endured the last year of WWII. The parallel story of the women from the work camp was difficult to listen to, because the writers choice of vocabulary and style was real and at times graphic, but it brought it all alive. The narrator made it all the more engaging. He was not only easy to listen to, his accent made it seem as though he had been through it all and was telling the story as he remembered it, not as someone else wrote it. I loved the characters, each of them with their own strengths and weaknesses. If you love history and a good story, treat yourself. It may not be a true story, but I am sure the events in this book took place over and over during that time.
I have been listening to books on tape for over 20 years. Starting with audio tapes, then CD's and now downloads.
Though we know that the front line fighting is terrible this book helps us realize the powerlessness of being behind the front lines on a losing war. The power of those with guns and the powerless fo those who are left. A great story, wonderfully written that I didn't want to put down once I started.
Yes, this book got to me in a most powerful way, and in my opinion, the narration helped a lot. I never thought the regional accents distracted; in fact often it kept me grounded on who was talking without waiting for the "Uri said". The story is one harrowing experience after another, from 3 different trails of German refugees until the stories finally link. It's suspense without spies, and of course you know the ending of the WWII story, but you don't know with the people in this story who will still be standing. It's one of the books I've listened to and now must purchase to have on my shelf.
It was intertwined story and very compelling.
Yuri's transformation through out the book. The disguises he used to stay alive.
His uses of accent and his voice which is amazing.
It made me ever more aware of the true hell that the victims of the Nazis experienced. I have read hundreds of books on the Holocaust and each one make me more attuned to the plight of the Jews and those who tried to assist them during the Nazi occupation of most of Europe. I felt sad at the loss of several of the characters and joyous at the triumph of those who survived the horror of the Nazis and the Russians.
If we don't know history, we are doomed to repeat it.
Historical fiction fascinates me, but when written so beautifully, it allows this time period to become a part of the reader. I have a relative who lived through this particular time, and this book brought me a little glimpse of what he must have lived through himself. Loved this book.
He's so expressive and his voice has great depth and clarity. I love listening to him.
Compelling, overwhelmingly sad
The depth of the characters against the backdrop of eastern Europe during WWII
Almost. I could barely put it down
This is a story of the tragic treatment of the Jews during WWII as well as the brutality of war and the loss of humanity by soldiers.
When I started it, I nearly put it down as it was hard to listen to the details of the horrors.
However, it is well written and the story of the characters is so compelling that I found myself creating time to listen to it.
This is a beautifully written and exquisitely read book. Rarely is the reading able to keep up with such a well written book. The experience is an extremely sad joy. I highly recommend this book and can't wait to start another by this author and will keep my eye out for this reader..
Loved the characters - believable and diverse. A story that was gripping, inspiring and tragic. Would read anything else by this author.
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