By Douglas R. Skopp
The story opens up with Johann in his “current” time of 1946, during the Nuremburg Trials. After the first chapter, every chapter opens with a portion of a letter that Johann in writing to his wife to try and explain the things he has done. After that, the chapter continues with a combination of current time, and flashbacks to Johann’s past as well as the past of his Jewish friend Philipp. At times these transitions were a bit confusing but as the story moved I got used to it.
The unspeakable things that Johann did as a Nazi doctor are hinted at but for most of the story you don’t really know the details. Because of this, Skopp sets up a story that allows you to forget, for moments, who he actually turns into. Skopp is careful to show Johann’s compassion and humanity before he gives the details of the terrible things Johann did. I think this makes the book even more haunting because it almost unexpected. Skopp really dives into the mindset at the time and tries to look at what would make someone commit those awful acts. He also attempts to get to the heart of how someone begins to justify their actions and beliefs.
“Philipp paused again to empty his glass. ‘But Johann, I have to ask—even though I am not eager to hear your answer—what do you mean, ‘act Jewish’?’
It was Johann’s turn to stiffen. He tightened his grip on his wine glass. ‘Ach, you know. The usual description of Jews. Money grubbing. Deceptive. Clannish. As you said, an outsider. Jewish,’ he said, his voice trailing off. ‘Not you, as I said. I mean no offense, Philipp.’”
The story is heartfelt and of course heartbreaking. It is also, at times, very graphic because it doesn’t just hint at the terrible things Nazi doctors did in the name of science. It definitely made me think and I am glad I had the opportunity to read it. But, I do also have to say that the end was completely aggravating with its open-ending…but that’s life.
SYNOPSIS: Johann Brenner, an idealistic physician and ardent German nationalist, has joined the Nazi Party and willingly participated in its "crimes against humanity." His Jewish childhood friend, Philipp Stein, has also become a doctor. Their lives inevitably intersect until their last, fateful meeting.
After the war, Brenner, with stolen papers and a new name, has become a janitor in the courthouse where the Nuremberg Trials are being held. Hoping to "heal himself" and wishing to begin a new life with his estranged wife, he decides that he must write her a letter telling what he has done and why.
Brenner's letter sets the theme for each chapter of Shadows Walking. Through his letter, we see him admit his choices and their consequences as he slips deeper and deeper into the brutality of the Third Reich.
**Thank you to Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and Douglas R Skopp for providing me with a copy for review.
Come back Monday Nov. 28 when I will have a guest post from Douglas R Skopp!!
For more information on the book and the blog tour check out:
Link to tour schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.blogspot.com/2011/10/douglas-r-skopp-on-tour-for-shadows.html
Link to Douglas R. Skopp's WEBSITE: http://www.shadowswalking.com/Shadows_Walking/Welcome.html
Twitter Event Hashtag: #ShadowsWalkingVirtualBookTour