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  • The Zoo

    Mischling means "mixed blood" and Pearl and Stasha are certainly that. They have their daddy's blonde hair and their mummy's dark eyes. They are also Polish Jews from Lodz and right now the most important thing they are is twins. Important because it means they may just, if they are lucky, survive the horrors of the Nazi invasion of their country and Josef Mengeles invasion of their bodies. The book opens as they arrive at Auschwitz and are ripped from their Mother and Grandfather and not even allowed to say goodbye. Distracted by the kindly doctor in his white coat they don't even see their remnants of their family leave. Thrust into Mengeles' Zoo they have to learn to survive this strange, violent new world. The start of this book is very hard to get into as the writing style appears to separate you from the characters and you feel as though you are just standing apart and just watching what happens to these girls. Once you get three or four chapters in each girls' individual voice begins to make itself known and you are soon submerged into their hopes and desires. Pearl and Stasha may be twins but Affinity Konor makes them distinct individuals with very different voices. The book rapidly becomes immersive and I devoured this at one sitting. Whilst it feels in some ways wrong to say you enjoyed a book about the horrors that were visited on people because of their race, religion or even just a genetic difference from what was seen to be "right"; I genuinely enjoyed this book. There is much this tale teaches us about the determination of the human spirit and how there is always hope in the direst of circumstances. It also deals with how even though you may be in a literal hell you can subsume your own needs and become what someone else needs you to be so they can survive it. This is best illustrated by Zvi and Miri who, on the surface, appear to be collaborators with Mengele. Jews who have abandoned their own to serve the Nazi machine. All they are trying to do is make the lot of their people a little easier to bear and, for the children of the zoo, they are the difference between survival and a fate worse than death. As Rudyard Kipling wrote "Lest We Forget", books like this one are important because we should never forget the tragedies the man visits upon man. Eva and Miriam Mozes did their utmost to make sure the world knew what happened in Auschwitz-Birkenau and this book leans much on their experience. Still and all this is a novel and not a biography. It is an uncomfortable read because of the collective ignorance of just what went on in the camps and often the real horrors, such as The Zoo, are glossed over because they are just too dreadful to contemplate. This novel shines a maglite on just this one section of the camp and is all the better for that. Mischling is an important book and, more than that, an excellent book that deserves to be read and enjoyed. Not just to make us go "oh, how awful" but to make us strive to be people as true, loving, forgiving and simply wonderful as Pearl, Stasha, Miri, Zvi, Peter, Feliks, Mirko and Bruna. I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THIS BOOK FROM READERS FIRST IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW.

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