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All Things That Deserve to Perish: A Novel of Wilhelmine Germany
by Dana Mack

Published: 2020-10-21T00:0
Paperback : 345 pages
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"...Mack's elegant prose summons the era by evoking the literature of the time period. ...Lisi is a character worthy of Edith Wharton, compellingly driven and finely flawed. ...The supporting characters are also drawn in enticing detail, transcending the archetypal roles they fill... ...
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Introduction

"...Mack's elegant prose summons the era by evoking the literature of the time period. ...Lisi is a character worthy of Edith Wharton, compellingly driven and finely flawed. ...The supporting characters are also drawn in enticing detail, transcending the archetypal roles they fill... Mack succeeds in delivering the two primary expectations of this sort of novel: Readers will be thoroughly immersed in the time period and fully invested in the fate of its hero. ...A rich tale set in the underexplored Wilhelmine Germany." - Kirkus Reviews

[A} vivid and incisive historical novel set in Germany and Austria in the 1890s. ...Mack's prose often soars, and her scenes and letters pulse with witty remarks and jolts of hard truth. Readers invested in the milieu or in historical domestic tragedy will find much to relish. - Publishers Weekly Booklife

"Expertly written.. Anyone who loves a good classic from the Victorian era is bound to enjoy reading this modern book with a similar feel." -US Review of Books

The year is 1896. Elisabeth ('Lisi') von Schwabacher, the gifted daughter of a Jewish banker, returns home to Berlin from piano study in Vienna. Though her thoughts are far from matrimony, she is pursued by two noblemen impressed as much by her stunning wealth as by her prodigious intellect and musical talent. Awakened to sudden improvements in the opportunities open to women, Lisi balks at her parents' expectation that she will contract a suitable bourgeois marriage with a Jewish man and settle down to a life as a wife and mother. In a bid to emancipate herself once and for all from that unwelcome fate, she resolves to have an affair with one of her aristocratic suitors -- an escapade that, given her rigid social milieu, has tragic consequences for both her and her family.

All Things That Deserve to Perish is a novel that penetrates the constrained condition of women in Wilhelmine Germany, as well as the particular social challenges faced by German Jews, who suffered invidious discrimination long before Hitler's seizure of power. It is also a compassionate rumination on the distractions of sexual love, and the often unbearable strains of a life devoted to art.

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Discussion Questions

1. To what extent can you relate to the lives of the main
characters? In what way were their lifestyles modern, and
in what way old-world?
2. Was Lisi von Schwabacher a feminist? How did her take

on the choices society offered women influence her per-
sonal choices and her fate?

3. Which characters in the novel do you think exhibited
mere social snobbery where Jews were concerned, and
which a more pernicious racial bigotry?
4. What do you think of the relationships Lisi had with her
mother and father?

5. Several characters in the novel demonstrate polarizing hos-
tility toward other political, religious, racial, and sexual iden-
tity groups. Do you think the current political and racial

climate is similar in any way to that of fin de siécle Germany?
6. Was Wilhelm von Boening’s courtship of Lisi romantic?
7. Do you think Wilhelm was a good husband to Lisi? Was
she a good wife to him?
8. Why do you think Lisi’s relationship with her cousin
Klara was both close and contentious?
9. To what extent do you think Lisi’s choices reflected her
confidence or lack of confidence in her musical talent?
10. To what extent do you think the characters in this novel
reflect or challenge literary and religious stereotypes and
archetypes?

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