” is the story of twins Pearl & Stasha, captured by Nazis, imprisoned & barbarously tortured in the ‘Zoo’ at Auschwitz, run by Josef Mengele. Konar’s novel is outstanding, staggering – it left me speechless. It’s a book as difficult to read as it is important in regards to subject. It’s history impeccably-woven into fiction. Amidst the most unimaginable atrocities, Konar has forged a story of love, spirit & kinship, not only between sisters but among the diverse people Pearl & Stasha encounter in the most astonishing situations.
The girls are 11 when rounded with their mother & grandfather Zayde, the latter a former biology professor. It’s from him that they have learned ‘The Classification of Living Things’ – once a game they played for entertainment, it quickly morphs into a way to survive. Of course the essence of “Mischling“ is that all humans fall into the classification of living things except where the Third Reich are concerned. The translation of ‘mischling’ is hybrid or ‘half-breed.’. This is how the girls & all non-Aryan Germans are viewed by the Nazi-imposed stratification. But the fact that they are twins makes them ‘special’ for Mengele & this heinous differentiation forces them to cope in ingenuous ways.
They decide that Pearl, older by minutes, will be in charge of the sad, the good, the past. She will also become keeper of time & memory. Stasha must care for the funny, the future, the bad. One is careful, practical, the other a “dreamer” who will be driven by vengeance but in so many ways, they are of one mind, heart & spirit. How can one read a book where the subject is Nazi camps, children & Mengele without the initial reaction that it will be ‘too much’? You cannot if you are humane. But the sublime beauty of Konar’s story is the overwhelming moments of hope that shine through; not only with the sisters but so many other ‘people’ living through this murderous time.
We know of the survivors stories & the inimitable courage & passion for life that each person possessed – Konar is able to incorporate that very quality in the characters of “Mischling.” This in itself is a magnificent feat. Pearl, Stasha (& the countless people on whom they are rendered) leave a monumental imprint on the reader’s mind & soul. Characters like Bruna, Dr. Miri, Feliks, Jakub, Sophie & so many more – each are exquisitely-human & unforgettable. It’s these figures, combined with Stasha & Pearl, that make this such an inspiring novel; one that a reader will be committed to after the first pages.
Affinity Konar spent 10 years researching, crafting and writing this novel; the efforts show on each page. It began when she read the seminal 1992 non-fiction, Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz by Lucette Matalon Lagnado. The fate of the children of Auschwitz, the fact that Mengele was never held accountable for his crimes became knowledge that set her on a course that ultimately ended with the publication of “Mischling
As an independent bookseller of 17 yrs., I’m honoured to affirm that Affinity Konar’s novel is uniquely, irrefutably extraordinary! “Mischling“ is ‘inhumanely-human.’ Konar’s writing is luminous, impeccably-researched, accurate in its horror, despair & yet, is singularly full of grace. Readers will come away from “Mischling” with added knowledge & appreciation for Affinity Konar’s contribution to literature. They will also reap the gift of renewed gratitude for their own personal freedoms, joys & lives. “Mischling” is a #MustRead Book of 2016!
Sept. 6th N.A. Release: Lee Boudreaux Books Random House of Canada & Little, Brown and Company
Publishing Links: –http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/534457/mischling…
Historical Information:- https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/…/two-survivors-roma…
– Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz by Lucette Matalon Lagnado from Penguin Random House, 1992 http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/…/children-of-the-flames…/