When I look up and I’m over 100 pages into a story, I can tell you it is well worth reading! Ironically, I had just received this book in audio format, but decided the story line might be too intense for driving and listening. I found a copy in my library’s e-books and barely put it down until I’d finished it!
“He thought there had once been a time in his life when his days had been fun” (p. 126).
World War II is coming to an end in that part of Germany that had recently been Poland. An aristocratic family on a grand estate is ready to begin their journey Westward, away from the brutal Soviet Army. In addition to the family is a Scottish POW who has been assigned to help with the farming–he too wants to flee his “allies” the Soviets. He has also fallen in love with the family’s daughter, Anna.
A young Jewish man, Uri, escaped a transport by throwing himself over the side of the train car with the sewage bucket. He’s now had several identities–most as a Nazi soldier.
In a women’s camp, Ceclie, receives yet another notice that she and the others will be marching west–either to work in another facotry or die along the way.
“She reminded herself that all she had left was her attitude. Her mind. They could take everything else from her: In the end, they might even take her life. But the couldn’t take away what she thought. They could’t take away hope” (p.209).
Chris Bohjalian is a master storyteller. This book could have gone too overly sentimental or it could have gone over the edge into dispair and horror. Instead it neatly walks the tightroped between. The emotions are real, the horror and danger are there. But the story of each character’s journey is so real–the storlinges so tightly woven that I could not put it down. There is one part I could slightly criticize, but it is too minor to include. At any rate, that one little part made me smile.