Having read all of Chris Bohjalian’s previous works, I can venture the opinion that this is his masterpiece. Skeletons at the Feast tells the tale of the Emmerlich family, lower ranked aristocrats living in Poland during WWII. War is hell, to quote Civil War General W.T.Sherman, but – thankfully – most of us will never realize the full truth of that aphorism. Skeletons at the Feast goes a long way toward bringing reality. Most of the soldiers who fought in that conflict, bloody and impossibly cruel, are no longer with us. Spend a few hours reading this book and you will never again treat the subjects of war, genocide, and revenge with casual apathy. The main characters here include German gentry, a British POW, a Jew who escaped a concentration camp, a group of imprisoned, starved Jewish women, German refugees, and the conquering Russian army. What takes place is a saga of horrific cruelty that we all need to experience once in a while, however vicariously.
Skeletons brings to the reader an authentic sample of the horrors of war from the perspective of the noncombatants, who are always the victims no matter the setting. Bohjalian breathes life into his characters and brings his readers as close as is possible to the terrible fallout that results from any war, all wars. Skeletons is a story that needs to be told. It’s not all “mission accomplished.”
This is not easy reading, but bear with the discomfort, and you’ll learn something of vital importance.