Wakolda (The Angel of Death) – Lucia Puenzo (5/52 books challenge)

Wakolda        This is one of the books I found while wandering among the shelves in my local library. It is about a historical person, who was active during World War II in concentration camps. I haven’t heard about it before, but it got me interested because of its connection to the war.

The novel tells a story of Josef Mengele, a doctor who was experimenting on twins during the war, and who sent many children and pregnant women to death in the camps. He was never punished for his crimes, which is the most scary part for me. Anyway, the novel is a fictional encounter of his with a family travelling to Beriloche in Argentina. Josef was hiding in Argentina and South America (where he died) for many years, so this story might have taken place. Josef gets interested in the family, because he suspects the mother is pregnant with twins, and because of a girl, who is too short for her age. He slowly gets their trust and tries to experiment on the girl to make her grow more.

I have mixed feelings about this book. There were moments I went through very fast and couldn’t stop, but there were also moments where I just couldn’t move past two or three pages in one sitting. The character of Josef is described pretty well and it’s terrifying. The character of Lilith, the girl with problems with growing, is also pretty okay, but the rest of the people are just there. The story itself is interesting enough, and it makes the reader think about how sometimes a person can seem nice and well-behaved, but be a hidden monsters. And how many of the war criminals didn’t pay for their crimes.

The problems I had with the book: first of all, a lot of threats that were not resolved. Sometimes it’s good not to give all the answers, but this time I felt like the author just treated a lot of issues pretty lightly and superficially. She just starts, and moves on. The other problem was that a book about such emotional and terrible subject felt a little too emotionless for me. Sort of like reading a feature, not a novel. Might have been just my impression.

Also, a very nice idea of presenting creation of perfect Nazi dolls as a metaphor to “Nazi defiance” while abroad. He couldn’t create a perfect human, Nazi race, so he did it with dolls. However, I felt like this potential was not fully used, either. There was something missing. And a little problem with the ending; it felt unresolved, everything just ended and I wasn’t sure why and how.

Would I recommend it? I’m not sure, but I think I would. Even if you don’t like it, or are not sure if you like it – like me – you won’t lose too much time, cause it’s short. The story itself was pretty interesting, but the best part for me was to try to get inside a man who would think “mixed” races” are something worse, below real humans. For me this was the most valuable part of the book, probably so terrifying and not-understandable.

PS the original title is “Wakolda” with is the name of a doll, but in Polish it was translated into “Angel of Death,” which is what Josef Mengele was called.


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