Monday, September 15, 2014

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian (audio)

★★ 1/2
"A term came to her that they used on occasion at the shelter: the double bind...They used the expression in much the same way that they would use a term like catch-22."

 After 26-year-old Laurel is attacked while riding her bicycle, she begins to withdraw into her photography and working at a homeless shelter.  She meets Bobbie Crocker and, when he suddenly dies, gets swept into a mystery involving a box of photographs that may lead to secrets about his past.  While looking for clues to Bobbie life, she realizes that there maybe connections to her own secrets as well.

This book didn't really do much for me.  I enjoyed the writing, but the story was just so-so.  I guess I have a harder time connecting to modern-day characters.  One of the few things that kept me going in the novel was the references to characters from F. Scott Fitgerald's "The Great Gatsby."  I really liked how the author was able to use these references in a way that flowed so well together.  It made me forget that the characters were from a book and not the past!


Friday, September 5, 2014

Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian (audio)

"She didn't care so much whether the world would ever forgive her people; but she did hope that someday, somehow, she would forgive herself."

I came across the book as I was going though the Chris Bohjalian audio books.  I read A LOT of World War II/Holocaust historical fiction, and I was surprised that I hadn't really heard of this one before.  I wouldn't say it was one of the best books I've ever read, but I did enjoy it.  

It's the beginning of 1945 and World War II is finally coming to an end.  Left in chaos, a group of Germans begin a journey to reach the allied forces near the Rhine.  The group includes Anna - a privileged daughter and her lover, Callum - a Scottish prisoner of war and Manfred - a Jew posing as a Nazi soldier after escaping Auschwitz.  Travelers also include Anna's mother and younger brother.  As the head away from the only home they have ever known, they begin to comprehend the horrors of the war as they fight to survive.

This novel painted an interesting perspective of World War II - that of a story of the German refugees.  War is never simple.  There is no "good" and "bad."  It's easy to classify the German Nazis as the "bad guys," but it's not that easy.  Many of the things that happened to aristocrats like Anna and her companions were similar to what the Nazis did to there enemies as well.  A lot of the detail about the horrors of World War II did not come out until the end of the war, and a high percentage of Germans didn't even know they were going on until years later.  The author did a wonderful job of capturing the time period and what the characters were going though.  A very powerful novel.