9780307394965

Skeletons at the Feast

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780307394965

  • ISBN10:

    0307394964

  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2/10/2009
  • Publisher: Broadway Books

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Summary

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 to reach the British and American lines, in this richly crafted novel that puts a face on one of the 20th century's greatest tragedies.

Author Biography

CHRIS BOHJALIAN is the critically acclaimed author of eleven novels, including Midwives (a Publishers Weekly Best Book and an Oprah’s Book Club selection), Before You Know Kindness, and his most recent New York Times bestseller, The Double Bind. His work has been translated into nineteen languages and published in twenty-two countries. He lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter.

Visit the author at www.chrisbohjalian.com.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpts

0307394956|excerpt

Bohjalian: SKELETONS AT THE FEAST

Part I

Autumn 1944

Chapter One

usually, it was only when one of the local soldiers was home on leave that Anna and her girlfriends ever saw the sorts of young men with whom, in different times, they might have danced. And, as the war had dragged on, the pool of marriage prospects—in Anna’s mind, often enough that meant merely her older brother Werner’s acquaintances—dried up completely. The soldiers were either missing or disfigured or dead.

But then came the POWs. Seven of them, sent from the prison camp to help with the harvest.

And a week after the POWs arrived at Kaminheim, when the corn was almost completely harvested and everyone was about to begin to gather the sugar beets and the apples, there came four naval officers in search of a plow. They were planning to mark a groove through the estate that would be the start of an antitank trench. When it was complete, the trench would span the length of the district, bisecting some farms, skirting the edges of others. Meanwhile, different officers were visiting neighboring estates as well, and the Emmerichs were told that at some point in the coming month hundreds of foreigners and old men would follow them, and descend on the estate to actually construct the trench.

And while the very idea of an antitank trench was alarming, the presence of all those handsome young men—the Germans, the Brits, and that one very young Scot—made it a burden Anna was willing to shoulder. This was true, at least in part, because she didn’t honestly believe the fighting would ever come this far west. It couldn’t. Even the naval officers said this was a mere precau- tion. And so she would flirt with the Brits during the day in the fields, where she would work, too, and dance with the naval officers in the evenings in the manor house’s small but elegant ballroom. Mutti would play the piano, joined after that first night by Callum Finella on Uncle Felix’s accordion, while her father—though distracted by the news from the east—would look on benignly. Sometimes Theo would put his toy cavalrymen away and watch as well, appalled in the manner of any ten-year-old boy that these brave and accomplished soldiers wanted to waste their time with the likes of his sister and her friends. He followed the men around like a puppy.

Helmut did, too. But Helmut actually would work with the officers as long as their father allowed him away from the har- vest, helping them to find their way around the endless acres of Kaminheim, and thus mark out the optimum design and place- ment of the trench. Then, after dinner, he would dance with Anna’s friends—girls who, previously, he had insisted were too puerile to be interesting. Seeing them now through the eyes of the navy men, however, he was suddenly discovering their charms.

Certainly Anna worried about her older brother, Werner, who had already been wounded once in this war and was fighting somewhere to the south. But she had rarely spent any time with men as interesting as this eclectic group who had descended upon their farm that autumn. She and Helmut had learned to speak English in school, though she had taken her studies far more seriously than her brother, which meant that she alone in the assemblage could speak easily to everybody—the POWs during the day and the naval officers at night—and appreciate how erudite and experienced everyone was. At least, she thought, in comparison to her. She was, on occasion, left almost dizzy as she swiveled among conversations and translated asides and remarks. And the longer stories? She felt like a star-struck child. When she was in grade school she had met English families the winter her family had gone skiing in Switzerland, but by 1944 she remembered little more than a very large man in a very poor bear costume,

Excerpted from Skeletons at the Feast: A Novel by Chris Bohjalian
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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