Mischling’s Back-of-Book Description
Pearl is in charge of: the sad, the good, the past.
Stasha must care for: the funny, the future, the bad.
It’s 1944 when the twin sisters arrive at Auschwitz with their mother and grandfather. In their benighted new world, Pearl and Stasha Zagorski take refuge in their identical natures, comforting themselves with the private language and shared games of their childhood.
As part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele’s Zoo, the girls experience privileges and horrors unknown to others, and they find themselves changed, stripped of the personalities they once shared, their identities altered by the burdens of guilt and pain.
That winter, at a concert orchestrated by Mengele, Pearl disappears. Stasha grieves for her twin, but clings to the possibility that Pearl remains alive. When the camp is liberated by the Red Army, she and her companion Feliks–a boy bent on vengeance for his own lost twin–travel through Poland’s devastation. Undeterred by injury, starvation, or the chaos around them, motivated by equal parts danger and hope, they encounter hostile villagers, Jewish resistance fighters, and fellow refugees, their quest enabled by the notion that Mengele may be captured and brought to justice within the ruins of the Warsaw Zoo. As the young survivors discover what has become of the world, they must try to imagine a future within it.
A superbly crafted story, told in a voice as exquisite as it is boundlessly original, MISCHLING defies every expectation, traversing one of the darkest moments in human history to show us the way toward ethereal beauty, moral reckoning, and soaring hope.
Oh my goodness, you guys. I sort of fell off the reading wagon for a while there. Because of life and stuff. But I finally grabbed Mischling by Affinity Konar from my massive “to be read” pile and holy cow! It was so good! It was just the book I needed to jump-start my reading engine.
Okay, before I get too ahead of myself…
I first learned about Mischling from a friend of mine who read it at least a year or two ago. I don’t know how she heard about it, but it doesn’t matter. I’m just glad she told me and that I had the good sense to put it on my list.
Let me start my review by saying that I really enjoy a good historical fiction. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I tend to like it. I especially like the WWII time period and sorties told from a Jewish perspective.
With that being said, there were quite a few sad parts, people die, and there are more than a few descriptions of the treatments they received. I guess some readers’ main complaint with this time period is gore? So okay, this book’s gore aspect might throw a few people off. But I personally think it’s mixed with enough good writing that it was not over the top and in fact useful to make the story more real and believable.
On that note, Affinity Konar’s writing is gorgeous! It’s poetic and flowery without being annoying. It was the right kind of prose to draw you into the story and get you to really care about the characters. The story starts right off, there’s not an overuse of telling us about their past or anything. Which I think is great!
The main characters are children, which might make some adult readers hesitate. But don’t! The things these children go through in the story are very adult. It doesn’t feel like a YA book at all – and I don’t think it is in that genre. So if young main characters throw you off, just brush that aside.
Moving on… Her setting description seemed really great – although I have actually been to Auschwitz when I was in Europe (it’s an overwhelming and incredible thing to see, I recommend going if you’re ever able) so it is possible that I was drawing on that visit to conjure up the images in my mine. However, I don’t think anyone would have trouble picturing the rooms, laboratories, and situational settings used throughout the story.
I also think she did a wonderful job with expressing the twins’ different personalities. She used the perspective switching (where each chapter is told from a different character’s point of view). I thought that was particularly useful in this case and it really helped to distinguish the two girls from one another.
She obviously did a lot of research – both on the types of relationships that are common with twins and on the time period itself. Even the main antagonist (the doctor in charge of the camp and experiments) seems to have been a real figure. I think that probably appeals to history buffs and fiction lovers alike.
Favorite Quotes From Mischling
“Her tears were perfect splinters of grief that held real triumph.”
“How can it be possible that we remain so curious to the end, so intent on knowing and experiencing even as we are dying?”
“It was difficult for me to put that past down, but we had to move forward.”
“Work would never set us free, despite what they’d promised. But beauty? Yes, I thought, beauty might see us past the gates.”
“…we would lose ourselves so thoroughly that our loss would require another name.”
Mischling was a beautiful book! 5 out of 5 stars. I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about it. I’m thrilled that I found it and I am going to suggest it to everyone I know. Starting with you guys!
In case you all want to send it on to others, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes historical fictions, stories about the bond between twins, or just a really good tale of hardship and the struggle to rebuild.
As always, thank you for reading my review. If this is your first, be sure to check out some of the others – there’s plenty of different genres and lots of good stuff!
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