Skele­tons at the Feast

Chris Boh­jalian
  • Review
By – March 5, 2012

The author’s new nov­el is based on the diary of a friend’s Ger­man grand­moth­er, kept from 1920 through 1945. It can be assumed that the author used mate­r­i­al per­tain­ing to the final years of World War II and the Holocaust. 

The plot is expert­ly con­struct­ed and the char­ac­ters diverse but care­ful­ly inter­twined. We meet a loy­al Ger­man fam­i­ly who, at first, do not see that what the Hitler regime is doing is wrong. They are assigned a Scotch P.O.W. to work for them. We meet a Jew, who escapes a trans­port train, and pos­es as a Ger­man sol­dier. Oth­er char­ac­ters are cre­at­ed to round out the cast. The Ger­mans fear the Rus­sians the most, with good reason. 

As fic­tion there are many coin­ci­dences in the inter­re­la­tion­ships among the diverse char­ac­ters with very dif­fer­ent back­grounds. There is tragedy, romance, friend­ship, vio­lence, many, many deaths until the end, when few char­ac­ters are left to enjoy the his­tor­i­cal peace.

It should be read strict­ly as a well con­struct­ed nov­el, not nec­es­sar­i­ly con­nect­ed to his­tor­i­cal fact, even though it is based on a diary.

Twit­ter Book Club

Read a tran­script from the Feb­ru­ary 25, 2010 Twit­ter Book Club with Chris Bohjalian.

Arlyne Samuels a grad­u­ate of Brook­lyn Col­lege, taught and super­vised Eng­lish in New York City for 40 years. She was the coor­di­na­tor of the book club of the Greater Worces­ter (MA) Chap­ter of Hadas­sah. Arlyne passed away in May 2009 and will be missed by the Jew­ish Book World team.

Discussion Questions