• Skeletons at the Feast

  • By: Chris Bohjalian
  • Narrated by: Mark Bramhall
  • Length: 12 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 12-12-08
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
  • 4 out of 5 stars 4.2 (55 ratings)


Perhaps not since The English Patient has a novel so deftly captured both the power and poignancy of romance and terror and tragedy of war. Skillfully portraying the flesh and blood of history, Chris Bohjalian has crafted a rich tapestry that puts a face on one of the 20th century's greatest tragedies - while creating, perhaps, a haunting masterpiece. 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
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Kirstine on 09-05-14

Love and endurance among the victims of WW2

This book draws together stories illustrating those who suffered as innocent and not so innocent victims of the massive upheaval in their lives caused by the Second World War in Europe. We follow the epic journey West of a well-to-do Prussian family exiled from their estate as the Russians advance from the East with their British POW worker in tow; experience the pain and indignities suffered by Jewish girls taken to a concentration camp; and shadow the exploits of a young Jewish escapee on the run. Unlike the Ken Follett book, Winter of the World, I've just listened to set in the same period, Skeletons at the Feast hardly mentions the bigger picture or the real characters involved in the war. Instead it focuses intensely on the struggle of the characters to survive as the war rages around them. The depressing narrative is lightened by a love-affair that blossoms amid the chaos.
It's a fine book that through fiction honours those whose lives were turned over by the war, including German civilians and ordinary soldiers.
The reader is very good managing many different accents including a creditable rendition of one from NE Scotland.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Zelda on 21-12-09


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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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Pamela Harvey on 20-01-09

War from the inside out

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.

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14 of 15 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Sherry L. Wright on 21-10-11

Learned so much more.

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?

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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