Thursday, November 24, 2011

Shadows Walking - Douglas R. Skopp

Shadows Walking
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.’”
Pg. 163

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:
Link to Douglas R. Skopp's WEBSITE:
Twitter Event Hashtag: #ShadowsWalkingVirtualBookTour


Douglas R. Skopp said...

Thank you so much, Jess, for your insightful review. I appreciate your attention and your compassion in reading Shadows Walking. I must agree, the events I describe are horrific. I tried as best as I could to keep them to a minimum...about 25 pages, I think, out of the whole novel. I wanted to write, not about violence, but rather why someone--in this case, a well-meaning, intelligent German physician--would allow himself to become so violent. Popular fiction and "entertainment" are filled with far more violence--Stephen King, Stieg Larsson, and the vicious crime/military themed video games, for example. Everything in Shadows Walking happened, or could have happened exactly as I describe it, based on my archival research as an historian of modern Germany.

As for the ending, I regret that you found it "aggravating," but I did want it to be provocative--it's the ending I finally chose, after writing five others. I want readers to ask themselves and others about the ending: What would a "better ending" be? Why? I want readers to imagine themselves on either side of the barbed wire of the death and slave labor camps.
How much would I have to do to show contrition and remorse if I was a perpetrator? How much contrition and remorse would I have to see before I could forgive, if I were a victim? What would I have done in their place and time? Could I have been a perpetrator? Would I have survived as a victim?

I hope other visitors to your engaging blog will find Shadows Walking worthwhile and thank you again for reviewing it so positively. With every good wish, Doug Skopp

Jess - A Book Hoarder said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog. I am already pressuring my step-dad to read Shadows Walking, I have a constant battle trying to convince him that a book doesn't have to be non-fiction to learn something from it and I think Shadows Walking is a perfect example of that.

I understand why you wrote the ending the way you did, I'm just someone who reads an open ending and says, "no, what happened after that," instead of, " many options to think through."

Douglas R. Skopp said...

Thank you, Jess, for suggesting Shadows Walking to your father. If he (or anyone) wants to learn more about the actual, historical foundations of the novel, I suggest going to my website -- www.shadows -- and clicking on the "Further Reading" header. This links my website's visitor to six selected English language bibliographies of scholarly studies on themes in the novel (e.g., The Nuremberg Trials, Jews in Germany, etc.) that I have compiled, and to the seventy little PDF essays that I have written about historical persons, places, incidents and circumstances (e.g., Goebbels, Hoche, Himmler, the Nazi Doctors' Trial, Schumann, Zero Hour, etc.) around which my novel is woven. As a professional historian, I was determined to place my characters in a verifiable place and time--down to the weather on a particular day--and to recreate to the best of my ability their thoughts and reactions to actual persons and conditions in the world around them: everything in Shadows Walking either happened, or could have happened exactly as I describe it.

I look forward to seeing my "guest blog" for you and thank you once more for giving me this opportunity.

With best wishes, Doug Skopp