Mischling Info

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Reviews for Mischling:

2

Oct 19, 2016

"For eight months we were afloat in amniotic snowfall, two rosy mittens resting on the lining of our mother. I couldnt imagine anything grander than the womb we shared, but after the scaffolds of our brains were ivoried and our spleens were complete, Pearl wanted to see the world beyond us. And so, with newborn pluck, she spat herself out of our mother."
A bit too arty and lacking in plot for my tastes.

I was immediately intrigued when I saw Mischling on Netgalley. Despite having read so many "For eight months we were afloat in amniotic snowfall, two rosy mittens resting on the lining of our mother. I couldn’t imagine anything grander than the womb we shared, but after the scaffolds of our brains were ivoried and our spleens were complete, Pearl wanted to see the world beyond us. And so, with newborn pluck, she spat herself out of our mother."
A bit too arty and lacking in plot for my tastes.

I was immediately intrigued when I saw Mischling on Netgalley. Despite having read so many Holocaust stories, this one sounded like it would bring something very different to the table. Josef Mengele's "zoo" has always been an object of morbid fascination for me and, I assume, many others. The cruel experiments conducted on twins and other multiples never cease to be repulsive and frightening. So a story about two such twins who are torn apart by this horror sounded like an emotional read.

But that's just what it isn't - an emotional read. I know it's a bit distasteful to say that about certain subjects - the Holocaust, slavery, 9/11, to give just a few examples - but the author writes like this book is a language exercise, not a look at one of the darkest times in modern history. Perhaps it is even more jarring because, for the most part, it is narrated from the perspective of two twelve-year-old girls, which makes it especially odd when it is very Creative Writing 101.
"Since Pearl’s disappearance, I’d noticed that animal life had become increasingly rare in Auschwitz. There was little hope of any arriving just because I wanted it to, and when no bird appeared, I put one there with my mind. In its beak, I made it carry a sprig of olive branch. But the bird kept dropping it. Even my own imagination, it seemed, had abandoned me."
And, cold as it may seem to say this, Mischling is actually a very by-the-numbers Holocaust story, familiar and predictable. Sure, the writing is flowery and experimental, but the story itself gives nothing new. I feel like very little research went into the book and everything that happened is stuff we all learned in high school: Separation of families upon arrival at Auschwitz, starvation, gas chambers, etc. I was hoping to learn something new about Mengele and his work, to be taken to new places, and yet all I got was a headache as I attempted to fight my way through the dense prose.

It's boring, to be honest. The lyrical writing doesn't seem to suit either the subject matter or the narrators at all. In fact, I feel like it is working as a mask - a pretty way to dress up a story that is nothing new; a plot that is nonexistent. The blurb basically tells you everything that happens. I know some readers enjoy the exploration of language first and foremost, and this book will probably be more suited to them, but it was not for me.

I've heard some different opinions on the two parts of the book - some reviewers saying that the second half (after the liberation of Auschwitz) picks up, others saying that their attention waned at that point - but I found them both equally tedious. The ending is neat and simplistic too, wrapped up in a message-shaped bow.

In my opinion: not worth the hype.

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5

Sep 01, 2016

We dont always know ourselves, who we can become, what we may do, after evil has done what it likes with us. Coming of age is tough enough, but toss in a World War, a forced relocation to one of the most infamous vortices of evil the world has ever known, and, for good measure, add in being in the hands of one of the most truly black-souled human beings to have ever fouled the surface of the earth. But perhaps the light we cannot see is the one that illuminates the soul.

We meet Stasha and We don’t always know ourselves, who we can become, what we may do, after evil has done what it likes with us. Coming of age is tough enough, but toss in a World War, a forced relocation to one of the most infamous vortices of evil the world has ever known, and, for good measure, add in being in the hands of one of the most truly black-souled human beings to have ever fouled the surface of the earth. But perhaps the light we cannot see is the one that illuminates the soul.

We meet Stasha and Pearl Zamorski in vitro. We were made, once. My twin, Pearl, and me. Or, to be precise, Pearl was formed and I split from her. She embossed herself on the womb; I copied her signature. For eight months we were afloat in amniotic snowfall, two rosy mittens resting on the lining of our mother. I couldn’t imagine anything grander than the womb we shared, but after the scaffolds of our brains were ivoried and our spleens were complete, Pearl wanted to see the world beyond us. And so, with newborn pluck, she spat herself out of our mother. Had they known what lay in store they might have resisted coming out at all. Two pages and twelve years later the girls, along with their mother and grandfather (Zayde) are being dropped off at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Among the greeters is one Josef Mengele, scanning the latest recruits for suitable fodder for his dark experiments. The Angel of Death had his own section at Auschwitz, The Zoo, where those selected were kept apart from the rest of the death-camp population, allowed privileges, more physical freedom, the ability to keep their own clothing, and greater food rations. But the screams from the doctor’s infirmary broadcast the cost. Twins were in high demand at The Zoo, as were others considered genetically different, albinos, small people, those with mismatched eye colors, anyone with genetic deformities.

During a musical performance at The Zoo, Pearl is taken away. Stasha is torn in half by the loss of her sister, but clings to hope that she will be returned. It is this hope that keeps Stasha from collapsing under the accumulating burdens of evil. The primary dark force here is personified by Mengele. Not only does he perform bizarre experiments on his charges, but presents a pleasant demeanor to them in order to gain their trust, or at least acceptance. He even has them call him Uncle. The experimentation is mostly off stage, and we are spared some of the darkest of his deeds. You can look those up, if you are so inclined, using the links in EXTRA STUFF. But it is bad enough. There is plenty of garden-variety brutality and cruelty.


Affinity Konar - from Publishers Weekly

Despite the severe darkness of the atmosphere, there are rays of sunshine. Konar offers a collection of joined-in-peril misfits that might make one think of Geek Love
or Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. They are a wonderfully drawn ensemble, engaging and well-defined without being trite. There is a nice mix of adults as well. Some are from Evil-Nazi central casting, but Doctor Miri, who works with Mengele, comes in for some pretty wonderful, well-rounded attention. There are benign spirits as well, who sometimes seem bereft of dark corners. One of the successes of the book is that the story remains focused on the twins and their journeys, and Mengele does not hog the spotlight, which must have been a real challenge for the author.

The simple beauty of the writing, the location of much of the horrific events off screen, plus the focus on the kids, gives Mischling a Y/A feel. But if this is Y/A, so were All the Light You Cannot See and The Book Thief. And who cares, anyway? A wonderful book is a wonderful book.


Josef Mengele- from wikimedia

Mischling is split into two parts. Part 1 covers their time in Auschwitz. Part 2 looks at events that take place after the Soviet Union liberates the camp. It is one of many splits in the book. Narration alternates between Stasha and Pearl. In the beginning the twins agree on how to share the burden of coping with the world. Everyone survived by planning. I could see that. I realized that Stasha and I would have to divide the responsibilities of living between us. Such divisions had always come naturally to us, and so there, in the early-morning dark, we divvied up the necessities: Stasha would take the funny, the future, the bad. I would take the sad, the past, the good. Stasha is more of a dreamer, but seeks satisfaction in revenge. Pearl seeks solace in forgiveness.

Konar, who has Polish Jewish roots, has done her research. Her picture of The Zoo appears very much in line with the reality of Mengele’s extended lab. The things the girls experience, or learn about, were things that actually happened. Some of the names are even the same as those of the real people on whom they were based. This is Konar’s second novel. Her first, The illustrated Version of Things, released in 2009, also tells of the centrality of family and trying to find and sustain connections in a hostile world. The word mischling was used by the Nazis to define people whose blood was a mixture of Jewish and Aryan. As used by Hitlerians, it denoted not only different, but inferior. Potter fans will recognize the use of “mud-blood” as deriving from this notion.

I have few gripes about Mischling. The bookend zoo scenarios seemed forced, as if, having presented the Auschwitz zoo in the front end, an actual zoo was needed at the back end. That felt very workshop-y. I thought a bit more of the horrors of the time might have been on-screen instead of off. But these are really more quibbles than gripes.

Mischling is an incredibly moving tale of the struggle of the human spirit against an apocalyptic wind. It illuminates the power of human connection, of love, if not to overcome adversity, to at least give one the strength to survive it. Mischling offers characters that will touch you deeply. Tears were invented so you could read this book properly. Konar’s writing is both simple and lyrical, descriptive and intensely moving, Mischling is a stunning mixture, of power and beauty, and is not to be missed.

Review posted – 9/2/2016

Publication date – 9/6/2016

=============================EXTRA STUFF

On Auschwitz
-----Wikipedia
-----About.com

Interviews
-----Quarks Daily
-----Publishers Weekly

Videos
-----Konar reads from the book
----- A Brief Chat With Affinity Konar - with Lee Boudreaux
----- Affinity Konar Q&A about MISCHLING

November 23, 2016 - Mischling is named to the NY Times list of 100 Notable Books of 2016 ...more
1

Apr 21, 2017

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

I was so irritated with this book I debated whether to even write this review. I haven't hated a novel this much since The Book Thief, except I think Mischling is the greater offender.*

I shall try to explain why I am so upset. In recent years I've noticed an increasing number of fictional accounts of the Holocaust. While there are innumerable books written about World War II, the novels that focus on the horrors of the concentration camps seem to go one of two NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

I was so irritated with this book I debated whether to even write this review. I haven't hated a novel this much since The Book Thief, except I think Mischling is the greater offender.*

I shall try to explain why I am so upset. In recent years I've noticed an increasing number of fictional accounts of the Holocaust. While there are innumerable books written about World War II, the novels that focus on the horrors of the concentration camps seem to go one of two routes: they become schmaltzy and milk the tragedy (such as The Boy in the Striped Pajamas), or they go the route of torture porn. I am sorry to say that Mischling commits both of these crimes.

Mischling follows 12-year-old twins, Pearl and Stasha, who get selected for testing in Josef Mengele's infamous "zoo." The girls witness -- and thus the reader must also observe -- the extreme abuse of Mengele's victims. What Mengele and his Nazi henchmen did was sadistic and horrifying. It has been recounted in dozens of nonfiction books and documentaries. Did we really need this torture porn of a novel?**

What was also irritating about this book was how the girls were written to be both precocious and clever but also foolish and silly. Sometimes they talk like 12-year-olds and other times they sound like 6-year-olds. This made me not believe either characterization and added to the mawkishness. For example, one of the twins is injected with something that "Uncle" Mengele tells her will make her "deathless." Despite all the murder she has witnessed, all the pain she has suffered, all the elaborate plots she's devised to kill him, and that her sister and mother have disappeared, she continues to believe Mengele's story about her invincibility. It's ludicrous.

I know some readers loved this novel and have praised the artsy writing style, so maybe you'll read it and won't get irritated. But I cannot in good conscience recommend this.

Notes:
*The only reason I decided to finish this book was because I recently read a thought-provoking article in The New York Times on Why You Should Read Books You Hate. I knew early on that I hated this book, but I became determined to keep reading to try and critically evaluate what bothered me so much.

**Instead of this novel, I would encourage those who want to read more about the Holocaust to look for nonfiction and survivor accounts, such as Night by Elie Wiesel, Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, or the Maus books by Art Spielgelman.

Update
While looking through publications of new books, I saw a title called Holocaust Literature, edited by Dorian Stuber. It's a collection of essays dealing with how to teach Holocaust lit. Some of the essays deal with controversies in the field, and to quote the review from Choice: "it examines whether fiction and poetry about the Holocaust should be written." YES! FEELING VINDICATED IN MY OUTRAGE. ...more
5

Feb 03, 2016

I shared with another Goodreads member this morning - minutes - after having finished reading "Mischling", ....while still in bed...that tears were rolling down my face.
I was shaken....really shaken. I tried to fall back to sleep and change my thoughts back to visuals of Alaska....( having now read both of Eowyn Ivey's books)...but instead I reached over to Paul -snuggled his 'soon-to-wake-for-work-sleeping-body'.....and quietly cried holding onto him.

I asked for this pain. I pre-paid for this I shared with another Goodreads member this morning - minutes - after having finished reading "Mischling", ....while still in bed...that tears were rolling down my face.
I was shaken....really shaken. I tried to fall back to sleep and change my thoughts back to visuals of Alaska....( having now read both of Eowyn Ivey's books)...but instead I reached over to Paul -snuggled his 'soon-to-wake-for-work-sleeping-body'.....and quietly cried holding onto him.

I asked for this pain. I pre-paid for this book many months ago. Not having any idea what I was really getting myself into.

I don't know where to start with this review. Who would? There are 'already' excellent reviews on Goodreads...
Will, Jill, Roger, Abby, & Jill.....etc. etc. Hats off to each of you!!!
I've been reading a few reviews myself - just now -as I begin to formulate my own thoughts. [not something I usually do]....

....The most important thing *I* want to say to 'my friends', is:
READ REVIEWS....before choosing to read this book or not. Read many. I'm 'still' not sure if reviews will give 'choice-clarity' for everyone, but it's the best option. -- state of personal well-being ought to be considered.
What NONE of the reviews can do - no matter how much detail is shared --is transfer
'the experience' of this book. Not possible. Knowing that....I'll pick a few things to share myself.

....."Auschwitz never forgot me. I begged it too. But even as I wept and bargained and withered it took care to know my number, and to count every soul it claimed. We were
innumerable, we should have overwhelmed this land beneath us into nothingness. But this patch at earth would not be overwhelmed. Some claimed that we might over-whelm it when we fully understood it's evil. But whenever we began to understand evil, evil itself increased. Others believed that hope might overwhelm it. But whenever hope
flourished, so did our tortures".

....."I was put in that cage because I loved too much. I had a great bond with someone, a connection much envied by this man. He was cold and empty and he could not form attachments, not with his family or wife or children. All that coursed through him was ambition, and this empty man, like so many empty men--he was determined to make history. One day, he decided that the best way to do so was by discovering how to girls who love each other too much might react to being parted. He tore us accordingly. I went to my cage, and she – – I did not know. All I knew was that before he installed me in my cage, he hobbled me at the ankles like an animal you want to keep but don't dare chase".

"Pearl could take the hope that the world would never forget what it had done to us.
I could take the belief that it would never happen again.
No one would know us as mischlinge. In that life, there would be no need for such a word.

A profoundly talented author!



...more
4

Sep 26, 2017

I was quite wary about starting "Mischling" having heard how powerful and harrowing it was from fellow readers. What went on during the holocaust was without doubt inhumane, brutal and incomprehensible, however this book almost had a YA feel to it, so it tended to hold back just enough on the vivid brutalities.

I loved the start to the story, beginning with the identical twins still in the womb and the thoughts of what Stasha was feeling as she and her twin Pearl were about to leave the safety of I was quite wary about starting "Mischling" having heard how powerful and harrowing it was from fellow readers. What went on during the holocaust was without doubt inhumane, brutal and incomprehensible, however this book almost had a YA feel to it, so it tended to hold back just enough on the vivid brutalities.

I loved the start to the story, beginning with the identical twins still in the womb and the thoughts of what Stasha was feeling as she and her twin Pearl were about to leave the safety of their mother. It then swiftly moves on to them arriving at Auschwitz at twelve years old and being selected by the infamous Dr Mengele for his 'zoo'.
Part one of the book is set in the camp and the terrible experiments carried out on the unfortunate children. It is during this part that Pearl goes missing during a musical concert and Stasha is devastated. Part two follows the liberation of the camp and Stasha, together with her friend Feliks go in search of her twin. The story is told through Stasha's thoughts and emotions and we really get to feel her heartache and devastation when Pearl disappears.

I'm not one of a twin, I don't have a sister or even a brother, so I find it hard at times to understand the love and the connection one may have with a sibling. However, through the author's vivid emotion and pure sentimentality I was able to sense what it must be like to have a twin and to feel as one body.

Although the prose was highly poetic and descriptive and was obviously written by an exceedingly talented and passionate author (Affinity Konar) I'm not sure the writing style was to my complete liking - maybe a bit too artistic and flowery. This is just my opinion and from the amount of highly positive reviews I maybe in a minority.

I would recommend this book, I do believe it's a story you need to read for yourself to form your own opinions, some will be more affected emotionally than others but without a doubt it is a powerful, emotional and harrowing read that really got to me and it's well worth a read.
3.5 - 4 stars. ...more
4

Nov 26, 2016

Mischling, you break my heart. With gorgeous prose, you pulled me into what I expected to be my best read of the year. You introduced me to the heinous Josef Mengele and his atrocities in a way that focused heavily on his duplicity, while keeping the darkest, most graphic details of his unimaginably sadistic and unconscionable experiments largely out of the story. I saw this as a gift. Enough was shared to make it clear: this man was soulless. Duality and division were themes carried throughout Mischling, you break my heart. With gorgeous prose, you pulled me into what I expected to be my best read of the year. You introduced me to the heinous Josef Mengele and his atrocities in a way that focused heavily on his duplicity, while keeping the darkest, most graphic details of his unimaginably sadistic and unconscionable experiments largely out of the story. I saw this as a gift. Enough was shared to make it clear: this man was soulless. Duality and division were themes carried throughout the story but the story was neither compelling nor devastating to me. It absolutely should have ripped me apart but it didn't. I had a visceral reaction to the existence of Mengele, I felt appreciation for the lyrical prose, but much of this seemed gauzy and ethereal to me, a little confusing and at times almost dull. Beautifully written, the magical realism and the ending both disappointed me.

I'm very conflicted. That darkest time in history continues to present hideous stories. 5 billion prayers for these children. But if I'm honest, this story didn't hold my attention and truly lost me in the end. 3.5 stars ...more
4

Feb 05, 2017

Oh. my...............just SO beautifully written. This book is based on Dr. Josef Mengele's "Zoo" experiments at Auschwitz, in which he tortured and experimented on twins, dwarves, albinos and any other victims that struck his fancy as unusual or "special." The subject matter is undeniably grim, but Konar gets her point across without being too graphic.

The strongest part of the book, for me, was the first part, which tells the story of 12-year-old twins Pearl and Stasha. We come to know Oh. my...............just SO beautifully written. This book is based on Dr. Josef Mengele's "Zoo" experiments at Auschwitz, in which he tortured and experimented on twins, dwarves, albinos and any other victims that struck his fancy as unusual or "special." The subject matter is undeniably grim, but Konar gets her point across without being too graphic.

The strongest part of the book, for me, was the first part, which tells the story of 12-year-old twins Pearl and Stasha. We come to know Auschwitz and "Uncle Doctor" Mengele through their eyes. Konar really nails the portrayal of Mengele; all the more chilling for his affected avuncular behavior toward his subjects.

Where I think the story dragged was in the aftermath of the liberation of Auschwitz. (view spoiler)[The separate journeys of Pearl and Stasha seemed less than believable, especially Stasha's. Several chance encounters towards the end turned this into more of a fairy-tale than I would have liked. Why undo the powerful, wrenching first half with such unlikely resolutions? (hide spoiler)]

Nevertheless, superb writing and some fascinating characters. Like "Lilac Girls," many of the characters in this story are based on real people. The tragedy is that Mengele escaped without consequence and justice was never realized for his victims. All we can do is re-tell these stories and listen to them with all our hearts, in the fervent hope that this never happens again.

Highly recommend. ...more
5

May 24, 2016

Mischling the term was used during the Third Reich to characterize those who bore both Aryan and Jewish blood is not for the faint of heart. It is nightmarish and shattering. It is also dare I use the term? uplifting. It resists limpid sentimentality and the contortion of history and pays witness to the darkest of times from an entirely new perspective. In short, I found the book to be astounding.

Inspired by the non-fictional book Children of the Flame, Affinity Konar focuses on a Mischling – the term was used during the Third Reich to characterize those who bore both Aryan and Jewish blood – is not for the faint of heart. It is nightmarish and shattering. It is also – dare I use the term? – uplifting. It resists limpid sentimentality and the contortion of history and pays witness to the darkest of times from an entirely new perspective. In short, I found the book to be astounding.

Inspired by the non-fictional book Children of the Flame, Affinity Konar focuses on a particularly horrific ongoing Holocaust event: the torture and experimentation on twins by the Angel of Death, Dr. Joseph Mengele.

The heroines of this book are twins Pearl and Stasha, who divide the responsibilities of living between themselves. Stasha takes on the funny, the future, the bad, while Pearl takes the sad, the past, the good. But it soon becomes evident that Stasha and Pearl are two halves of survival – the part that must cope with loss and despair and the part that against all odds, experiences wild hope that cannot be extracted from her or punctured by a needle.

The twinning of two young girls – of hope and despair, life and death, fortitude and triumph – is a theme that is interwoven throughout. The narrative is told in alternate chapters by Stasha and then Pearl as they hauntingly describe how a hideous and morally stunted doctor tries to irreparably break the longing for attachment and destroy the most important part of living – the need to be close to another living being. Auschwitz becomes not just a physical hellhole of despair, but also a state of mind. At one point, Stasha reflects, “This is my belief. Auschwitz would end when Pearl returned.” When they are together, they are whole.

Given the duality, it is not surprising that Ms. Konar decided to divide the book into two parts: the time together in Auschwitz and the move out of it in search of wholeness. As the tone shift to magic realism, the reader follows Stasha and Pearl into a limbo land, where it’s sometimes challenging to distinguish between wishful thinking and reality. Who is alive and who is not? How will they learn to love the world again after experiencing its most base evils? To survive means having a Someone (a twin) by one’s side – but can one create a twin if the real twin is not present to divide the duties in the journey ahead?

This is the kind of book that I want to grab the next person I see and say, “Read this. It will alter you.” It’s been a while since I sobbed aloud from the sheer power and beauty of a book. When the publicist calls this a “modern classic” – believe her. 6 stars and Best of 2016.
...more
3

Dec 11, 2016

This sobering story of identical twin sisters interred at Auschwitz and subjected to Mengele's horrific experiments is somewhat a tough read. The reader is spared most of the nitty gritty details of his psychotic operations and vivisections, along with hints of the extremely high rate of executions. We know that things went on but they are not described in detail or shown to us directly. Because the reader is shielded from gruesome details, this would be an excellent book for grades 6 and up. This sobering story of identical twin sisters interred at Auschwitz and subjected to Mengele's horrific experiments is somewhat a tough read. The reader is spared most of the nitty gritty details of his psychotic operations and vivisections, along with hints of the extremely high rate of executions. We know that things went on but they are not described in detail or shown to us directly. Because the reader is shielded from gruesome details, this would be an excellent book for grades 6 and up. The tale focuses on the two little girls and those immediately around them, not on the perversions he inflicted.

My favorite character was one who was not featured prominently. She was the female "doctor" who assisted Mengele. She used her position to try to intervene on the behalf of his victims, to sometimes steal life quickly and painlessly in order to prevent torture and suffering - the darker aspects of her job are somewhat hidden in the book, but I have read about her elsewhere. What a razor's edge this woman walked, and her sense of guilt after the camp was liberated was unimaginable. She of course is based on a real woman, as are many of the players in the story.

The author used two works of non-fiction as her primary research source. We do get tidbits that mostly are unheard of today - there is a room with eyeballs pinned to a wall, and most people don't know that those who had multi-colored eyes (heterochromic) were killed so that their eyes could be collected as rare oddities. I've got mixed color eyes myself, and know that it is pretty unusual...but did not know that they'd once been harvested like gems.

I believe the entire book to be quite historically accurate and appreciate that - so much historical fiction is seemingly slapped together. This is a good launching point for those who want to further understand the suffering of people at the hands of the Nazis. Our young people today need to face this ugliness open eyed, lest we as a society forget.

With regard to the factual representations, this book unfortunately acted as a "diorama painting" for me. Do you recall those super elongate illustrations of, say, the Jurassic period, where a representation of every single living creature over that 45 million year chunk of time is there in a single painting? Deep-sea ammonites are there with trilobites and pterodactyls and mosasaurs and probably 45 other known types of animals.

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER...The book felt like it took all the major types of carnage wrought by Mengele (including the eyeballs and his attempt to create Siamese twins), added in the female "doctor," the small people, other events at the camp, and "Uncle Doctor" loading boxes of paperwork into his car. Then, when the author added in the death march, she also introduced the Jewish Resistance fighters, the rubber pill, peroxide-blonde hair dye to look Aryan, the parachutes, the Warsaw zoo, the Wiermacht soldiers in the salt mine, the photos in the newspaper, and more.

END OF SPOILERS All of the above things were absolutely true - but that the sisters were eye witness to every single one of them sort of took me away from the character-study of the girls. It became way too far fetched.

What also did not work so well for me - not content-wise, but writing-wise - were the three family-related coincidences that popped up (I could swallow one, but three?). Ultimately, somehow I never felt an emotional tie to either of the young sisters.

The book was split somewhat equally between their two perspectives and had rather short sections, so I'd just get going being inside one sister when the other one would take the floor, so to speak. I also do not believe that identical twins feel one another's physical pain and do not believe that they have ESP. Some people do think so, and that's fine by me...just saying it was one more little piece that distracted me from buying in every time this was brought up.

There is another WWII book called The Nightingale that I didn't care for that also had that diorama feel (and romance) and one called Sarah's Key that I half loved/half disliked, also because of romance. It is not that I don't feel deeply for the suffering and injustice and frustration and loss - it is just that not all stories about these awful things are conveyed as well for me as others. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Book Thief, City of Thieves, The Hunger Angel, Snow Falling on Cedars, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, All the Light We Cannot See, and other works of historical fiction were truly gripping. This particular book - for me - was not.

For a first person account from one of the twins who was there, Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz might be an alternate choice. At the age of 10, Eva and her sister Miriam were taken from the cattle car landing while their older siblings and parents were escorted immediately to the gas chamber. When she was injected with a lethal infection, she crawled repeatedly over a period of days to a water faucet to drink and therefore, possibly stay alive. Eva recounts that when one twin was intentionally infected and died, they immediately would slaughter her healthy identical so that the diseased body could be compared with the healthy one in simultaneous autopsies. Eva did what she could to survive so that Miriam would not be killed.

You might also heck out The Zookeeper's Wife for info on how the Warsaw Zoo and its gorgeous director's house was used to hide 300 Jews in plain sight of the Nazis, passing themselves off as zoo staff and using a lot of peroxide to turn themselves blonde.

Lastly, if you've got your nerve up, read This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen for something written by one of the male survivors of Auschwitz. If you've read Mischling and remember them discussing "Canada" - the storage building for all the pilfered goods, this will resonate. The author was a worker at "Canada" and like the twins, had a role to perform and therefore had his life spared. The book this young man wrote after the liberation is full of dark, bitter humor - the type gallows humor that those who did survive used to keep their sanity intact. After liberation, he finally married his longtime fiancée. Three days after she gave birth to their baby, he committed suicide. The survivor's guilt got to him. He was 29 years old and killed himself with gas. His book was amazing but unlike this one, not for middle school readers. ...more
4

Feb 09, 2017

This is such a hard book to review. It's beautifully written but the subject matter is so horrific. Stasha and Pearl are twins that are part of Dr. Mengeles experimentation at Auschwitz. While Konar tries to limit how graphically she describes some of these experiments, there is no escaping the gruesomeness.

The author explores all sorts of different themes - family, faith, forgiveness and revenge. The characters are fully realized. In addition to the twins, Miri, a Jewish doctor forced to help This is such a hard book to review. It's beautifully written but the subject matter is so horrific. Stasha and Pearl are twins that are part of Dr. Mengele’s experimentation at Auschwitz. While Konar tries to limit how graphically she describes some of these experiments, there is no escaping the gruesomeness.

The author explores all sorts of different themes - family, faith, forgiveness and revenge. The characters are fully realized. In addition to the twins, Miri, a Jewish doctor forced to help Mengele is an especially poignant character.

When I bought the book, I hadn't realized that the book deals with both before and after the liberation of the camp. Konar fully captures the issues facing Poland as the Russians enter. The ending gets a little too far fetched but that is really my only complaint and the only reason I don't rate the book five stars.
This is a book that fulfills an important function of history lesson and reminding us of what should never be forgotten.
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5

Sep 17, 2016

Signed copy giveaway on my blog until 1/27 https://www.facebook.com/suzyapproved

One of the 100 Notable books of 2016 by the New York Times
3

May 28, 2016

A Question of Tone

After two quite different attempts to review this unusual Holocaust novel by Affinity Konar, I am finally giving up, with an admission that I probably missed the author's point. The ostensible narrators are two Jewish girls, identical twins who, because their blonde hair made them look almost Aryan (Mischling means of mixed blood), attracted the eye of the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele at Auschwitz, making in them simultaneously his pets and the subjects of his most inhumane A Question of Tone

After two quite different attempts to review this unusual Holocaust novel by Affinity Konar, I am finally giving up, with an admission that I probably missed the author's point. The ostensible narrators are two Jewish girls, identical twins who, because their blonde hair made them look almost Aryan (Mischling means of mixed blood), attracted the eye of the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele at Auschwitz, making in them simultaneously his pets and the subjects of his most inhumane experiments.

My trouble came in parsing the author's tone, which ranges from naively childlike to all-knowing, and seemed at first sight to be at odds with the subject. Had somebody told me when I started that, for all her apparent naïveté, Konar is not a naive writer and had chosen the language precisely to place the narrative in a highly unusual register, I believe I might have had a similarly enthusiastic reaction to the others you see here. But, for a particular reason that is not relevant here, I started off on the wrong foot and never recovered. It was not a good experience for me, but perhaps my belated advice to trust the tone will make it a more meaningful one for others. ...more
2

Dec 06, 2016

2.5★
This is where I need to work out some complicated thoughts. The author is a talented writer but this was not for me. I wonder how I'll feel about it in the weeks to come.

They lived in Uncle Mengeles Zoo and played games out in the yard called bury the dead. They believed that their cooperation insured good treatment and extra favors for their loved ones. They were twins or multiples, children of the holocaust, and victims of the cruelest and most inhumane medical experimentation ever 2.5★
This is where I need to work out some complicated thoughts. The author is a talented writer but this was not for me. I wonder how I'll feel about it in the weeks to come.

They lived in Uncle Mengele’s Zoo and played games out in the yard called bury the dead. They believed that their cooperation insured good treatment and extra favors for their loved ones. They were twins or multiples, children of the holocaust, and victims of the cruelest and most inhumane medical experimentation ever conceived and carried out.
How do you write historical fiction about that and why would people want to read it?

This was a difficult book to get through, and for me there were multiple reasons why. It will also be controversial for many. Is it disrespectful or wrong to write and profit from a novel based on true and horrific events when there are people who survived it and have told their own stories? I have conflicted thoughts. There is no denying that books and movies can deliver a message or a part of history to many who might not be exposed to it otherwise. Did I need more exposure to this heartbreak? I think not but there might be some that probably do and one could argue that this is a less ghastly introduction than going to the bare recorded facts, film, and photographs as I did many years ago.
The week I was reading there was a special on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Arizona memorial was featured. A serviceman was interviewed who was one of the men on that ship surviving the attack. It was noted that people are already forgetting, that some visitors to the site do not even know who won the war or even why it was fought.

I would not recommend this to anyone because I believe that readers should weigh the benefit of doing so for themselves. I read in remembrance of those who perished and could not tell their own stories. We should never forget them. But at a certain point it was exhaustive, especially from Part II on, then finally the ending pages and a denouement I could not appreciate. Understandably there is a need to temper such a story by “traversing one of the darkest moments in human history to show us the way toward ethereal beauty, moral reckoning, and soaring hope” but I take exception to that intent here. I’m not convinced that in this case, with this story, that is anything but self-serving to the author and reader. The vast majority died gruesome deaths, Mengele escaped, and as reported in August of this year, the remains of those sacrificed in the name of science were discovered in a Munich research lab during a recent renovation. Attempts are being made to identify some of the victims. There is no beauty or transcendence in that.

Thank you to NetGalley & Hachette Book Group for access to this ARC.
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3

Aug 27, 2016

"Stasha would take the funny, the future, the bad. I would take the sad, the past, the good."

Identical twins Pearl and Stasha arrived at Auschwitz as two halves of one whole. Pearl, the eldest, was sweet and musical, Stasha fearless and imaginative. Fresh off the transport train, the pair catch the eye of the notorious "doctor" Josef Mengele, who favors twins as subjects for his gruesome medical and genetic experiments. At Auschwitz, being a double can be a good thing. It can keep you alive for "Stasha would take the funny, the future, the bad. I would take the sad, the past, the good."

Identical twins Pearl and Stasha arrived at Auschwitz as two halves of one whole. Pearl, the eldest, was sweet and musical, Stasha fearless and imaginative. Fresh off the transport train, the pair catch the eye of the notorious "doctor" Josef Mengele, who favors twins as subjects for his gruesome medical and genetic experiments. At Auschwitz, being a double can be a good thing. It can keep you alive for another day. But it's not only death that can separate twins forever in Mengele's Zoo. The so-called Angel of Death had the ability to take two girls who are one and cleave them apart for good. It's something the girls fear almost as much as the gas chamber.

Half of this book is set in Auschwitz, and half in the chaotic aftermath of the camp's liberation. It's written largely in thick, overworked prose that obscures moments of tension and genuine emotion. I never got a sense of any of the characters and found all but Stasha remarkably flat. Lyrical prose somehow hides the horrors of Auschwitz. This book tells the story of the torture of children by one of the most sadistic psychopaths in history, but manages to do so in a distant, dispassionate fashion. I haven't read a Holocaust book that's provoked less of an emotional reaction from me. I was disappointed in the ending, and details throughout seemed a bit historically... bendable. But mostly this book just failed to capture my attention.

Thank you to both the publisher and NetGalley for granting me access to this book. ...more
5

Dec 31, 2016

As I actually completed this book shortly before midnight, it is my final book of 2016, and while a difficult read, it is also very well done. In spite of all the nonfiction I have read about the Holocaust and the horrors of the death camps, Mischling has opened my eyes and mind further.

Mischling is an historic fiction written about one specific aspect of the Holocaust that I have heard about but never read many details of over the years. Konar brings to life, through the eyes, ears and bodies As I actually completed this book shortly before midnight, it is my final book of 2016, and while a difficult read, it is also very well done. In spite of all the nonfiction I have read about the Holocaust and the horrors of the death camps, Mischling has opened my eyes and mind further.

Mischling is an historic fiction written about one specific aspect of the Holocaust that I have heard about but never read many details of over the years. Konar brings to life, through the eyes, ears and bodies of two young girls, Stasha and Pearl, the infamous "twin program" of Dr Mengele. Now I have perhaps a greater knowledge as this fiction is based in historical fact. We learn in ways that are difficult to forget; they immerse the reader in these girls' lives.

I knew there was such a program and that Mengele performed various medical exams , tests and experiments, but this novel brought what had been a mild unreality into stark reality. At the same time, it is a well-written and gripping read, however difficult the subject. I only regret it has taken me so long to complete my review.

I do recommend this book highly while recognizing that it is a difficult book to read.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review. ...more
5

Nov 04, 2016


5.0 STARS! By far one of very best books I read in 2016

This is one of those rare books that reached my soul. It broke down my DNA and reassembled my genetic code into something completely different from when I started the book. It ripped my heart from my chest, tossed it about in an ethereal world of emotions, flooded with compassion, empathy and utter sadness and despair and finally forgiveness, and placed it back within my symmetrical anatomy with a loving, gentle caress. It drained my tears
5.0 STARS! By far one of very best books I read in 2016

This is one of those rare books that reached my soul. It broke down my DNA and reassembled my genetic code into something completely different from when I started the book. It ripped my heart from my chest, tossed it about in an ethereal world of emotions, flooded with compassion, empathy and utter sadness and despair and finally forgiveness, and placed it back within my symmetrical anatomy with a loving, gentle caress. It drained my tears until I surely thought there could be no more. And then they flowed all over again … for Pearl and Stasha Zamorski.

In September of 1944, twelve year old twins Pearl and Stasha emerge into a new world. Loaded into a cattle car with Mama and Zayde and traveling for four days and nights from the Jewish Ghetto in Lodz, the car doors suddenly roll open and the twins are greeted by a white-coated man, engaged with a mother and her triplets and an orchestra of musicians who use their talents to convince the newcomers that Auschwitz was not without beauty and appreciation for the humane.

“They are mischlinge?” the doctor asked. “That yellow hair!”

Quickly separated from Mama and grandpa Zayde, the twins enter Mengele’s Zoo.

Mischling, the German legal term used in Nazi Germany to denote persons deemed to have both Aryan and Jewish ancestry, is historical fiction about one of the very darkest chapters of human existence. Told mostly through the voices of Pearl and Stasha, the author’s treatment of Auschwitz and the heinous medical experimentation on twins, triples and children with genetic deformities conducted by Josef Mengele, the infamous Angel of Death and German SS officer and physician at Auschwitz, is absolutely brilliant, eerily reminiscent of a dream-like fairy tale. The language is intoxicating, the subject matter so horrific, that at times it read like pure fiction until reality slapped me across the face so hard I trembled with horror … what happened in Auschwitz and Birkenau was far too disturbingly real. This really happened!

Pearl and Stasha are deeply and profoundly connected and inseparable, even when they are pulled apart every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for eight hours at a time of blood drawing, x-rays, injection of “deathlessness” and photographers and artists to document Uncle’s medical reviews. They complete each others' thoughts; feel each others' pain and suffering. Pearl is locked away in a dark cage, naked, deprived of food and water, ankles hobble so she can never walk away; Stasha sequesters herself in her own cage, an old sauerkraut barrel and writes letters to Pearl on the inner walls of the barrel, longing for the other half of her life. The love the twins share is enduring and unbreakable.

Despite the pain, deprivation, torture and inexorable suffering, in the end Pearl and Stasha are still able to love, look past vengeance, and forgive. This is a powerful story of love and forgiveness told through the innocent voices of children, an innocence that creates the illusion of a fairy tale, an illusion that takes the sharp edges off the unthinkable cruelty and depravity of Nazi pseudoscience and diabolical experimentation and the horrors of genocide.

Without some knowledge of WWII, especially the collapsing years of the Third Reich and the state sponsored genocide of Nazi Germany, some of the nuances of the story might be lost. But no matter your degree of historical knowledge, I guarantee the emotional connection with Pearl and Stasha will be very real and intense. To this day I still shed tears for Pearl and Stasha!

I highly recommend this book!

For a completely different take, check out my book club friend's review ... interesting! https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
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5

Nov 10, 2016

Not just another Holocaust story. The story of the twins of Auschwitz has largely been untold, because it is so horrifically evil and heart rending and yet it is a part of history that deserves our attention. Stasha and Pearl are 12 year old twin sisters who will need to call upon their powerful and almost magical bond to survive, when they catch the eye of the infamous Josef Mengele the "Angel of Death" who preserves the lives of " doubles" in the death camp only to use them as subjects in his Not just another Holocaust story. The story of the twins of Auschwitz has largely been untold, because it is so horrifically evil and heart rending and yet it is a part of history that deserves our attention. Stasha and Pearl are 12 year old twin sisters who will need to call upon their powerful and almost magical bond to survive, when they catch the eye of the infamous Josef Mengele the "Angel of Death" who preserves the lives of " doubles" in the death camp only to use them as subjects in his medical experiments. Anthony Doerr, author of All The Light We Cannot See, says one can not approach this book without wondering if their soul can survive the journey, and I agree. It was an especially hard read for me as I have a set of twins (though they are adult now ) and have observed first hand their special bond. Also it's predominantly about children which is a subject also very close to the bone, not just to me, but for most of us. So, this book comes with a strong warning that it may not be for everyone, and as you'll see it took me 7 days to get through it, having had at times to just set it aside for awhile. That said, Konar's delivery here manages to transcend the subject matter and give us characters whose bravery and strength won't soon (if ever ) be forgotten , and a story that though shattering still manages to display the human spirit at its best and worst, the one that enables us to grasp small glimmers of light and hope and move forward and the one which eventually fans the flame that will ignite moral reckoning. I'm guessing we're going to be hearing much about this unmatched debut novel. 5 stars ...more
5

Sep 20, 2016

Affinity Konar is like Anthony Doerr in that she can find lyrical poetry in nightmarish, unfathomable scenarios that aren't necessarily easy to read, but should be read in order to remember and honor the painful lessons of our history.

Mischling deals with identical twins Pearl and Stasha, who arrive at Auschwitz with the strongest of bonds between them. Pearl is the older of the two, the musical one, the dancer, and Stasha is the dreamer who seeks solace and distraction in her imagination. The Affinity Konar is like Anthony Doerr in that she can find lyrical poetry in nightmarish, unfathomable scenarios that aren't necessarily easy to read, but should be read in order to remember and honor the painful lessons of our history.

Mischling deals with identical twins Pearl and Stasha, who arrive at Auschwitz with the strongest of bonds between them. Pearl is the older of the two, the musical one, the dancer, and Stasha is the dreamer who seeks solace and distraction in her imagination. The diabolical Josef Mengele takes an interest in the two of them, which spells obvious doom. He performs heinous experiments on both young girls, some of which are detailed here and some of which aren't (needless to say, this book isn't recommended for the faint of heart), but these have the effect of separating the girls, fracturing them both physically and emotionally, lessening the whole that they are together. This fissure resonates in many different ways. The girls lie to each other for the first time, learning to hide things in order to protect each other.

The story is told in alternating viewpoints, between the two girls. There are some minor issues here where the voices of Pearl and Stasha seem genuinely childlike and then jarringly too wise and adult, but it's easy enough to forgive these tonal shifts with the dark nature of the subject matter: Auschwitz undoubtedly made it impossible for children to remain children for long - their youth, innocence, and much more cruelly stripped from them.

Like Eliza Granville's Gretel and the Dark, there are hints of folklore injected here as a way of dealing with the truly horrible reality at hand. Stasha, the dreamer seeking distraction and release, buys into the lies that her torturer tells her as a mechanism of survival, and the imagery of the girls knowing things inherently by visions of poppies that their mother once painted haunts them throughout. Even as they and their world are diminished in almost every conceivable way, during the war and after, they are hyper-aware of each other, always searching and daring to hope when everything is lost.

A deeply disturbing and poignantly realized coming of age tale set in the worst of times with powerful lessons about family and survival, Konar's Mischling is a must-read of 2016. ...more
4

Feb 24, 2017

4 stars

I fully expected Mischling to be a literary disaster, but I was very pleasantly surprised in the manner Affinity Konar was able to weave real-life Holocaust atrocities (and in the case of "Angel of Death" Josef Mengele, weave in real-life monsters who perpetrated them), adding in just a pinch of "Magical Realism" (davening pigeons? anthropomorphized bears and jackals hell-bent on retribution? sure, why not?) and come up with a heartbreaking read that transcends its hideous subject 4 stars

I fully expected Mischling to be a literary disaster, but I was very pleasantly surprised in the manner Affinity Konar was able to weave real-life Holocaust atrocities (and in the case of "Angel of Death" Josef Mengele, weave in real-life monsters who perpetrated them), adding in just a pinch of "Magical Realism" (davening pigeons? anthropomorphized bears and jackals hell-bent on retribution? sure, why not?) and come up with a heartbreaking read that transcends its hideous subject matter. I doubt that the fictional plight of identical twins Pearl and Stasha (loosely based on real-life Auschwitz' "Mengele's Zoo" subjects Eva and Miriam Mozes) will cease to resonate in my mind.

------------------

(Tournament of Books fans: Reading this after Michael Chabon's Moonglow (a ToB short-lister, and another novel that weaves in Holocaust facts with fiction) makes me believe Mischling''s absence from the ToB short-list was a bit of a rip-off for Ms. Konar. I'd have loved to see these two books go head to head in competition: both risky endeavors, both incredibly well-written.) ...more
5

Nov 10, 2016

This book will be with me for a long, long time. A melancholy timbre, wonderfully visual language, and two utterly remarkable girls at its center - this one hurt my heart. I cant do more than simply describe how it made me feel and give some examples of the writing that I so enjoyed.

Mischling is the account of twelve year old twin girls Pearl and Stasha as they describe their time in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp during WWII. I dont want to delve into the cruelty that was inflicted This book will be with me for a long, long time. A melancholy timbre, wonderfully visual language, and two utterly remarkable girls at its center - this one hurt my heart. I can’t do more than simply describe how it made me feel and give some examples of the writing that I so enjoyed.

Mischling is the account of twelve year old twin girls Pearl and Stasha as they describe their time in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp during WWII. I don’t want to delve into the cruelty that was inflicted on all those children by Josef Mengele in his “zoo,” but I will warn you that those parts were particularly tough to read. More importantly, it’s clear that nothing he or his staff do to Pearl and Stasha will dismantle their innate humanity and goodness. They tell their stories in two distinct voices but they feel as if they are the same person and they share each other’s physical and emotional pain.

“So, I knew violence. Or I knew it well enough to understand that it had happened to the eyes. I knew they’d been torn from bodies that belonged to people who deserved such better sights than what they’d last seen. And even though I was unaware of what the most beautiful sight could be, I wanted to give it to them. I wanted to travel the whole world over, from sea to mountain and back, and bring to them an object, an animal, a view, an instrument, a person--anything that might reassure them that even as violence tore on, beauty remained, and it remembered them still. Realizing the impossibility of this, I gave the eyes the only thing I could: a tear crept down my cheek.”

Affinity Konar has written a story so beautiful and unique in its imagery that, even with all the horror and sadness told, the spirit of survival is an ever present thread from beginning to end. It’s certainly no easy read, but it shows us how people are so much more than what happens to them – that’s the beauty that I pulled from it.

“My forgiveness was a constant repetition, an acknowledgment of the fact that I still lived; it was proof that their experiments, their numbers, their samples, was all for naught – I remained, a tribute to their underestimations of what a girl can endure. In my forgiveness, their failure to obliterate me was made clear.“
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5

Jan 15, 2016

What a privilege I felt being able to read this before the hype will break loose!
This was one of the most talked about books of the Frankfurther Book Fair '15. My guess is you will almost get tired of seeing it appear in short lists, best of 2016-lists and obnoxious recommendations just as this one (so you can say it'll be this year's A little life ;-)

Ok: it's miserable... Reading from the POV of twins being captured in Auschwitz, on a daily basis undergoing the horrific experiments by Mengele, What a privilege I felt being able to read this before the hype will break loose!
This was one of the most talked about books of the Frankfurther Book Fair '15. My guess is you will almost get tired of seeing it appear in short lists, best of 2016-lists and obnoxious recommendations just as this one (so you can say it'll be this year's A little life ;-)

Ok: it's miserable... Reading from the POV of twins being captured in Auschwitz, on a daily basis undergoing the horrific experiments by Mengele, is not a pleasant walk in the park. But the language people! The language!

2015 was my own absolute best year in literature. I never read more top level books than last year. And still this one didn't leave my top 5.

Two quotes to emphasize my enthousiasm:

"I’d noticed that animal life had become increasingly rare in Auschwitz. There was little hope of any arriving just because I wanted it to, and when no bird appeared, I put one there with my mind. In its beak, I made it carry a sprig of olive branch. But the bird kept dropping it. Even my own imagination, it seemed, had abandoned me."

"As I realized this, a girl on the other side of the barracks found a light, some precious book of matches, and she decided that this scarcity would be best put to use making shadow puppets for the audience in the barracks. And so it was that we drifted off to sleep with a series of shadow figures crossing the wall, walking two by two, each flanking the other, as if in a procession towards some unseen ark that might secure their safety." ...more
4

Oct 02, 2016

I find that it is quite difficult to talk about tragedies through the eyes of children without becoming twee. Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See and Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are paramount examples of this twee. Foer pulls it off, Doerr not so much. So I was a bit nervous in picking up this book, which deals with the particular part of Auschwitz called "The Zoo;" in this area internees that were identical twins or had other genetic anomalies would be I find that it is quite difficult to talk about tragedies through the eyes of children without becoming twee. Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See and Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are paramount examples of this twee. Foer pulls it off, Doerr not so much. So I was a bit nervous in picking up this book, which deals with the particular part of Auschwitz called "The Zoo;" in this area internees that were identical twins or had other genetic anomalies would be gathered under the "loving" but in fact completely sadistic and psychopathic attention of Josef Mengele. If this book is to be believed -- and it is very thoroughly researched -- Mengele was a mediocre physician with a great capacity to ascend to the highest ranks of the Nazi kingdom, and the book gives the distinct impression that his "experiments" were vastly more exercises in sadism than advances in science.

The protagonists of this book are 12 and then 13-year-old twins, Pearl and Stasha, and alongside them in The Zoo there's a motley crew of truly fabulous characters, kid survivors who bank entirely on their own oddities to stay alive.

The first point I want to remark on is that the affinity konar bends over backwards to avoid brutality porn. She gives us just enough that we know that the unspeakable happens, but she also gives us plenty of ways to put it into a nice box of denial.

The second point I want to remark on is that there is all sorts of magic that happens between twins -- not Harry Potter magic, just plain human magic -- and all this magic is rendered through inventiveness, quirk, and lovely vocabulary. The result is an utterly original, mesmerizing, and joyful book where a joyful book should have been impossible.

The third point I want to highlight is the key point of the book, the soul and the heart and the air and the oxygen and the sunshine and the warm milk of this book, and it is that if you are deeply loved you will survive. Clearly, Pearl and Stasha love each other inexpressibly, but since it is precisely Mengele's mission to tear twins apart, the love that manages to keep them alive when they should have died ten times over, is the memory of the love of their mom, their dad, their grandfather and of each other. A child who has been absolutely treasured has unimaginable survival tools. Patricia McCormick's Never Fall Down is a luminous example of this theory.

Fourth: children have tools for survival we can only dream of. We live in the constant fantasy that we need to look after children. This is a fantasy. Like angels, children are constantly looking out for us. All of them.

Fifth: quite surprisingly, the book dropped the ball at the end, and the last ten pages are disappointing. I do not know if this is the author's fault, the editor's fault, or God's fault. Since God can take it, I'm gonna blame him for it. ...more
2

Aug 11, 2016

**I received this as an egalley through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.**

I have read many Holocaust books in my life and thought that this one sounded exceptionally interesting, which is why I requested it. The story of the twins and others who were subjected to Mengele's experiments is not one I have read before in historical fiction, and was thus eager to read it. However, while the writing could be interesting at times, for the most part I found myself disengaged from the story and **I received this as an egalley through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.**

I have read many Holocaust books in my life and thought that this one sounded exceptionally interesting, which is why I requested it. The story of the twins and others who were subjected to Mengele's experiments is not one I have read before in historical fiction, and was thus eager to read it. However, while the writing could be interesting at times, for the most part I found myself disengaged from the story and sometimes utterly baffled at was going on due to the overwhelming amount of prose.

Almost every other paragraph was so chock-full of symbols and metaphors that I completely lost sight of the story at times. Things would occur but it would take pages to understand just what had happened. The characters did not feel real at times - Stasha downright annoyed me in her gullibleness and other strange behaviors - and everything felt like an abstraction of itself.

For a topic such as the Holocaust, I especially did not like the overuse of prose. It can be wonderfully done, when done right and balanced out with more straight-forward writing, but when it feels like the entire story is written in it, the story and the importance of the events don't feel as significant anymore to me. I read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and while that does also use prose, I did not lose sight of the characters or become confused about what was happening in the plot as I did while reading Mischling.

Sadly this book was just not for me. I wish I had stopped reading it sooner, and ended up skimming through the last three chapters because I just needed it to end. The constant metaphors and prose just took away from everything else. Sometimes less is more. ...more
4

Dec 04, 2016

My forgiveness was a constant repetition, and acknowledgement of the fact that I still lived; it was proof that their experiments, their number, their samples, was all for naught - I remained, a tribute to their underestimations of what a girl can endure.
4.5 stars. A beautifully written, well-researched book about twins, Pearl and Stasha, who ends up in the Zoo at Auschwitz. A place where death-doctor, Josef Mengele, kept and performed experiments on all his especially selected children. The My forgiveness was a constant repetition, and acknowledgement of the fact that I still lived; it was proof that their experiments, their number, their samples, was all for naught - I remained, a tribute to their underestimations of what a girl can endure.
4.5 stars. A beautifully written, well-researched book about twins, Pearl and Stasha, who ends up in the Zoo at Auschwitz. A place where death-doctor, Josef Mengele, kept and performed experiments on all his especially selected children. The author does an amazing job, showing us horrible images, while threading hope throughout. Kids are amazingly resilient, and like in Anne Frank we can see that they just try to adapt to this new life. I loved how she uses the twins relationship and personalities to show us how people react so differently to similar situations, and how we can not ever predict who will do what. The traces of magical realism, which I think, was more a creation of Stasha's mind than the authors made this book even more special. Although I've read so many books on the Holocaust, I did not know about the terrible horrors done to children specifically, and that it was as much an emotional as a physical torture. Many of the characters will stay with me for a long time, and I will be adding this author to my favorite list.
They were children, once. ...more
1

Sep 28, 2016

DNF. Don't read this book. It is part of the growing trend of exploiting Holocaust materials in order to create a sensation and sell more books. As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors I was very upset by it, as I was by other fictional novels about the Holocaust. Historical fiction concerning the Holocaust is very rarely done well, and the only good ones I've read were written by people with strong personal connections to the events. The writing in this novel felt so contrived, so full of DNF. Don't read this book. It is part of the growing trend of exploiting Holocaust materials in order to create a sensation and sell more books. As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors I was very upset by it, as I was by other fictional novels about the Holocaust. Historical fiction concerning the Holocaust is very rarely done well, and the only good ones I've read were written by people with strong personal connections to the events. The writing in this novel felt so contrived, so full of effort to make it into the 'literary' circles and to be considered 'high-brow', that it oozed exploitation of the pain that people actually went through under the hands of Dr. Mengele. As a child, survivors of this man's evil were still walking among us here in Israel, and I've heard a few of them tell their story in their own words when they came to speak at my school on Holocaust Day. I can tell you, the original stories are enough. There's no need to add any fiction to them. ...more

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