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Ashes To The Vistula [Paperback]

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Ashes To The Vistula by Bill Copeland

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Item Specifications...

Pages   288
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.9" Width: 5" Height: 0.7"
Weight:   0.65 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 24, 2007
Publisher   libros international
ISBN  1905988168  
ISBN13  9781905988167  

Availability  0 units.

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1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Historical

Reviews - What do customers think about Ashes To The Vistula?

Ashes to the Vistula   Aug 25, 2008
Ashes to the Vistula - by Bill Copeland

When first presented with reading this novel, I found myself filled with dread and avoided reading the novel for a several weeks, not because I did not think the story a good one or the writing to be anything but good. After all, the novel was a finalist for the "Georgia Author of the Year Awards." I was filled with dread because I feared the setting of the story, the Holocaust, as I find reading about the atrocities man/woman commits against their fellow man to be so very painful and sad. (After more than 20 years, I still cannot complete Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee for the same reason.)

Mr. Copeland's book is excellent, a beautiful love story--one of friendship and loyalty, growth and admiration, although set against the reality of a world turned upside-down and inside-out. A page-turner, the story demands to be read in its entirety and quickly. Mr. Copeland could have bombarded his readers with one atrocity after another, but instead he carefully controls the story while at the same time giving his readers a glimpse into the misery and inhumanity of the Holocaust, enough to remind us that we should never forget history, lest we surely repeat it. To forge something beautiful against something so hideous requires great skill. Mr. Copeland has that skill.

Sandra Jones Cropsey
Author of Who's There? and Tinker's Christmas

Holocaust Reality as Fiction  Aug 6, 2008
Usually, I have no trouble writing about books; however, "Ashes to the Vistula" presented some challenges, perhaps because it is different than most holocaust literature that I've read. I suspect we've all read such books as "The Diary of Anne Frank," "Night" by Eli Wiesel, maybe "The Investigation" (documentary drama of the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials) by Peter Weiss, and others. Those were true stories, non-fiction. Ashes to the Vistula is a novel. While some may exist (and I'm showing off my ignorance), I don't know of other fictional accounts of the holocaust.

"Ashes to the Vistula" succeeds as a first rate novel because of Copeland's "hours of research" and his ability to create wholly believable characters in Filip Stictchko, a Polish orphan, and his mentally challenged friend, as we follow them into Auschwitz. I was fascinated by the highly effective system of forced/slave labor set up by the Nazis, perhaps similar to well-run corporations. Except of course, in the camps, your "salary" or reward was avoiding death. And depending on your "rank" within the camp, you might gain an occasional candy bar, an extra ration of food, access to others, influence, and so on. The various levels of responsibility, and the concomitant moral ambiguity, could directly affect chances at survival. Managerial talent, leadership, and the (amoral?) ability to kill were in themselves survival mechanisms.

The first person, present tense, usually reserved for short stories, did on occasion seem stylistically awkward; however, it's rare, and is far outweighed by what is gained. It is a testament to Copeland's writing that he is able to use present tense for the length of a novel, to craft a taught, intricately woven plot with believable characters, and to explore the complexity and moral ambiguities of survival.

Not only can I recommend Copeland's book, I can suggest that someday it might mark a moment in "holocaust fiction," an area only those who have a firm grasp of holocaust reality can master. "Ashes to the Vistula" is an excellent read, a fine novel, one that will retain space on my shelf for a long time.
Night and fog has fallen upon decent lives  Aug 4, 2008
Over the years I've read a number of Holocaust books, fiction and non-fiction, yet no matter how much I read about this period, thankfully I can never become inured to the horror. Perhaps I thought that there was nothing new to be said about this important yet horrendous subject; but I'd be wrong. Because despite the evident inhumanity displayed by several individuals, what shines through is the powerful humanity, the will to survive, the will to serve fellow men and women, no matter what the risk.

Filip befriends Jakub in their Polish township. Sadly, Jakub has the body of a young adult but the mind of a child. As the war encroaches, Filip promises Aron, Jakub's elder brother that he will look after Filip while Aron goes off to fight. As time passes, Filip becomes the town's policeman, a role that prepares him for his traumatic future.

When Poland is overrun, for so many there is nowhere to go, except to the concentration camps. Filip and Jakub end up in Auschwitz, where Filip uses his experience to become a capo, a trustee, responsible for keeping order among the slave workforce. In this slightly privileged position he is able to look out for Jakub and keep his promise to Aron.

Told in the first person by Filip, this is a tour de force. Bill Copeland has managed magnificently to walk in Filip's worn shoes. Nothing is black and white in a world that is insane, a tiny microcosm that is their camp. Night and fog has fallen upon decent lives. Compromises have to be made. Nobody can be innocent and survive - save Jakub.

Historically accurate where possible, the book touches on the dreadful Katyn massacre and hauntingly, poetically Babi Yar - names that still echo in infamy after so long.

The variety of characters we encounter tug at our emotions - some good, some bad, and plenty just trying to cling onto life. The wonderful yet sad twist at the end is very moving.

Bill Copeland's book deserves to be read.

- Nik Morton, author of THE PRAGUE MANUSCRIPT, which, although set in 1975 Czechoslovakia, features a significant section about the Warsaw uprising of 1942.
A superbly worked story  Jul 4, 2008
"The insanity of war has robbed me of everything I knew and loved." These are the words of Filip Stitchko, a Pole, a concentration camp kapo, an overseer, a policeman in Auschwitz. And, by the time the reader has reached the end of Filip's story in Ashes To The Vistula by Bill Copeland, those words emerge with poignancy, irony and inescapable truth intermingled.

Ashes To The Vistula, at first sight, is a wartime memoir of an innocent victim. But, in war, who is not innocent? And who is not a victim? Equally, who is innocent? As a result of mere circumstance Filip finds himself appointed to a position of responsibility within the concentration camp. He happened to be in a certain place when the Second World War broke out. Filip was in Poland, a country that was squeezed by a partially-shared conspiracy in 1939. Whilst fascists moved east, professed socialists moved west and the state that was created to keep the eagle from the bear imploded. An elder brother, an officer, probably travelled, defeated, to Katyn where history disputed precisely whose guns, whose motives perpetrated a slaughter of Polish officers. Those left behind at the time, such as Filip and the younger Jakub knew nothing of the elder brother's fate.

This is one of the strengths of Bill Copeland's book. It has an immediacy, a present that it is uncomplicated by received hindsight. On many issues, Bill Copeland leaves the jury out, enabling the reader to empathise with the dilemmas that confronted wartime and immediate post-war experience. This is the book's subtlety. Though it is primarily plot led, the plot is genuinely surprising, ultimately engaging and, in a few late chapters, both confronts and rounds off several themes that the reader has registered throughout the narrative.

Central to the book's purpose is the relationship of dependence, ultimately inter-dependence between Filip, the privileged concentration camp policeman, and Jakub, a Jewish-named gentile, a slow-witted permanent child whose safety has been entrusted to the older Filip. Through the prosecution of his duty, Filip is revealed to be not only a protector, not only a survivor, but also ultimately a compassionate companion and overseer, despite the fact that both circumstance and insanity conspire against both young men. Filip is no saint, make no mistake, but there is an underlying reason for his excesses.

Ashes To The Vistula in essence is an anti-war book. In it the reader is presented with thousands of people who suffer the consequences of conflict. None of them have been protagonists, none of them have sought gain or power, except, of course, over their peers once they have been pitted against them as their competitors and antagonists.

This is where we find the book's tragedy. That war kills, that war kills innocents, that war creates potential for corruption and duplicity, all these are givens. But war also creates insanity, an insanity that affects all involved, where the need to punish someone, anyone, for one's own arbitrary suffering might override rationality, evidence or even experience. And perhaps, given that insanity, the need to expunge the inexplicable is greater than the need to seek explanation, since, when threatened, we all react before we think.

Ashes To The Vistula by Bill Copeland is an unusual and moving study of one aspect of World War Two. It has an immediacy and a clarity that bring the history of its setting completely to life.
Work of a mature author.  May 18, 2008
This is a true joy to read, reflecting the mature skills of a master writer. It handles delicate religious nuances superbly and gives genuine insightful dialog that speaks to the deeper meanings of life within a context that can never be forgotten. - The Rev. Ward A. Knights, Atlanta, Georgia.

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