FeaturedHistorical Fiction

All Things That Deserve To Perish


Must read 🏆

The elaborate historical romance captured within exceeds all expectations; a work infused with emotion, bold politics, and elegant prose.

This book is truly a haven for the historically minded; well-researched and incredibly well written, All Things That Deserve to Perish is the kind of intellectual delicacy that causes the reader to become torn between savoring or devouring its pages. Dana Mack is an artist who beautifully captures the lives of aristocrats and German-Jews in the turbulent political landscape that was late 19th century Germany.

Elisabeth von Schwabacher is a Jewish heroine that I never realized I needed; she, like the other characters in this book, is an intellectually complex mirror into the political and social world of the 1800s. Elisabeth is not a simple Mary-Sue female lead, and neither is she entirely our protagonist, but rather she is an example of the moral dichotomy that is the human persona. She is real. She is riveting.

The text itself is split into the perspectives of various characters, either through the focused lens of specific chapters or through tactfully shared letters of correspondence between Elisabeth, her pursuers, friends, and family. By emphasizing the juxtaposition of the thoughts versus actions of her characters, Mack creates dynamic, frustratingly human leads that are as unpredictable in nature as they are philosophically and empathetically stimulating.

There is a constant running theme of intellectual versus physical love; the societal pressures against independent sexuality suffocate our protagonist as she is also intellectually and artistically stifled by the common aristocratic male. She is challenged to choose between her love for educated conversation and artistic passion and her desire as a woman to be loved and embraced, a decision that is hardly fair and entirely historically accurate.

This is not merely a romance story, but a commentary on German-Jewish history, the female condition, and the harsh realities of love between imperfect people.

I would recommend this book to any reader interested in complex romances, historical fiction, or curious to learn more about German and Jewish history, particularly in regards to the extensive anti-Semitism that preceded the infamous Holocaust. While the romance aspect of the novel is well-developed, and the characters almost tangible in their organic emotions and morally grey beliefs and actions, the sheer impressive beauty of Mack's writing style and extensively researched knowledge of the period create a world that any avid reader could (and should) appreciate.

Reviewed by

Hello - I'm Emily Ryan, an avid consumer of literature and lover of prose. In between reading academic papers for university and catching up on thrift-store books, I'm a reviewer for Discovery novels.

About the author

Dana Mack is an historian, writer, and musician living in Connecticut. She is the author of The Assault on Parenthood (Simon & Schuster) and The Book of Marriage (Eerdmanns). Her articles on music, education, family issues, culture and history have appeared in major newspapers and magazines. view profile

Published on October 25, 2020

90000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Historical Fiction

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