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Reviewed by Heather Osborne for Readers' Favorite
Quite possibly one of the most well-written historical novels I have read, Qualities of Mercy by Susan L. McLaren takes place in Germany during World War Two. The main characters, Judith, a Jewish woman, and Horst, an ophthalmologist, come together in the most unlikely of circumstances when he is charged to remove the corneas from her eyes and swap them for an aging Nazi general with cataracts, leaving Judith virtually blind. This horrific experiment, sanctioned by his superiors, finds Horst at odds with his medical oath and the ones he swore to the Nazi party. As he cares for Judith in the hospital, he soon develops a strange friendship with her, while his medical curiosity pushes him to continue to interact with her.
Expertly researched, Qualities of Mercy by Susan L. McLaren tops my list of reads for this year. I have an intellectual interest in historical fiction written around this horrible period, and I admire someone who can tastefully write about it, while still giving the impact of the horror of the world around the main characters. I found Horst a fascinating character, torn between his work as a doctor and his feelings for Judith. I appreciated how the history seeped into the novel through Judith’s conversations with Horst. This novel is in-depth and wonderfully written in a way that draws you into the characters’ lives, eager to find out more. It is certainly not a weekend read, but something that must be savoured and appreciated. I will definitely be looking for other novels by McLaren, and any lover of historical novels will not be disappointed with Qualities of Mercy.