Monday, December 2, 2019

Review: Caging Skies by Christine Leunens

Title: Caging Skies
Author: Christine Leunens
Format: Paperback ARC
Pub. Date: August 6th 2019
Source: Goodreads First Reads

Book Description:

The inspiration for the major film Jojo Rabbit by Taika Waititi

An avid member of the Hitler Youth in 1940s Vienna, Johannes Betzler discovers his parents are hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa behind a false wall in their home. His initial horror turns to interest—then love and obsession. After his parents disappear, Johannes is the only one aware of Elsa’s existence in the house and he alone is responsible for her fate. Drawing strength from his daydreams about Hitler, Johannes plans for the end of the war and what it might mean for him and Elsa.

The inspiration for the major film Jojo Rabbit by Taika Waititi, Caging Skies, sold in over twenty countries, is a work of rare power; a stylistic and storytelling triumph. Startling, blackly comic, and written in Christine Leunens’s gorgeous, muscular prose, this novel, her U.S. debut, is singular and unforgettable



I really liked this book. I wasn't really quite sure what to expect, having read the synopsis and also having seen the trailer for the film based on it, Jojo Rabbit.

Leunens has a really developed sense of writing. She's good at delivering emotion and tone, even when you don't really want to be feeling the things you're feeling. For example, that you feel bad for a devoted member of the Hitler Youth, and that you continue to feel bad even as he's supporting the Reich and as he's continuing to keep a Jewish girl in his walls for his own personal fulfillment.

Johannes is flawed and in a lot of ways, just not a good person. But in other ways, he seems so aware and so caring. He takes care of his family and his home with one hand, but lies and bullies with the other. I wasn't quite sure what to make of him a lot of the time, but he was never a dull character. The way the author describes his hometown and what is happening after Hitler's regime is over, it felt like I was transported. When his feelings were hurt I felt them, even if I thought he deserved it (and he often did). Elsa too is well written. Leunens does a good job of making her hopeful and sad and appreciative and rebellious, all in one. There's a lot of complexities and sometimes it's happy, sometimes it's sad, and sometimes you find yourself laughing and then feeling like a bad person.

It would have been 5 stars for me until I started to hit the end. Then it seems to have turned into a completely different book. The tone changed, and the pacing wildly changed. It went from well paced (and maybe even a little slow) to zooming by, and then abruptly it was over. I actually reread a bit to see if I had missed something but, no, it wasn't me. It almost felt like when you are writing an essay for an exam and the proctor calls five minutes so you just write like mad. It's a shame that it ended on a rough note for me.

That aside, this book was well written and I am glad I read it. If you're easily offended, this might not be a good fit for you as there's a fair amount of dark comedy. If you're a fan of WWII or Holocaust books, than I think it's worth reading.

I have not seen Jojo Rabbit, so I have absolutely no idea how the two compare but going off of the trailer, I'm going to say that they seem like completely different animals, so, keep that in mind if you liked the film and are considering reading the book.

I received a copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads in exchange for my honest review. Thank you.


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