• Deborah MB

'All Things That Deserve To Perish' may include this novel

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

All Things That Deserve To Perish, by Dana Mack, is a romance novel attempting to be a roman de fin de siècle. What we get is the story of a marriage of lust and convenience between a rich Jewish heiress with musical abilities, and an impoverished Junker heir, at the end of the 19th/ beginning of the 20th Century. There are long epistolary episodes full of florid language and gossipy meanness (supposed to be witticism) on her part; exclamation marks to denote passion on his part. There are soirees, glittering jewels, outstanding musical, concerts, European tours, discussions of art, etcetera. Basically, we get the trappings of a period world.

We also get very current issues superimposed on historical ones. There is a constant reminder of the rise of antisemitism – Dreyfus gets mentioned; homosexuality – the Eulenburg case is part of the events; abortion – illegal but widespread among the higher classes; religious tensions; even literacy, sexuality, and female emancipation. It is laid thick, constantly, as though Ms Mack feared we might miss the hints, how much destruction these matters brought since.

Sadly, the characters seem to learn nothing from them, and remain undeveloped. The events fizz in the background. Even the end brings us back to social and family order.

Who would enjoy this

All Things That Deserve To Perish is a good choice for those who enjoy the glitter or period dramas, love stories, and happy endings.

It is also a good choice for those looking for alternatives to the usual British and American historical romance novels, particularly those with interests in actual history. Additionally, it may suit readers who like books which allusions at art and music beyond the standard.

Who should give this a pass

All Things That Deserve To Perish is not a book for readers looking for solid structure or character development. The first succumbs to the need for added issues; the second is simply absent.

This is also not a story for lovers of modern romance. Despite the open discussion of sexuality, and the speed of events, Ms Mack’s novel would be more comfortably read in a drawing room than on a sun lounger.

Conclusions and suggestions

It is peculiar that both the weakness and strength of All Things That Deserve To Perish are the same: Ms Mack was passionate about this story because of all the back knowledge she had on it. As a result, she created a book that tries too hard, and in so doing, it condemns it to fail: the heroine is so special and perky, she’s obnoxious; the hero is either dumb as a bell, or surprisingly admirable; the historical events are too overpowering for the storyline; the attempt at recreating the literary style of the period, too formulaic.

Ms Mack had a great idea, the amazing vantage point of deep understanding of her subject matter, a different period and location to portray than most. More than that, she spent a long time building up her work. All of this translated in too much overthinking, so that like a Sauerkraut, the whole lot has soured. Unlike it, however, it is clearly not by device.

There are clear lessons to learn from this volume:

· Don’t fall in love with your creation. Too much of a good thing is not good, after all.

· Remember to develop your characters. They are the real engine behind any reader interest.

· Find alternative sources to move beyond the tried and tired subjects. Exploring new periods and bringing new spaces for new readership is a smart creative move.

· Keep a light brush when highlighting social issues in a novel. It is a novel, after all, not a treatise in morals.

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