A strange, haunting novel about survival and love in all its forms; about sexual awakenings and dark secrets; about European refugee intellectuals who have fled Hitler’s armies with their dreams intact and who have come to an elusive new (American) “can do, will do” world they cannot seem to find. A novel steeped in surreal storytelling and beautiful music that transports its half-broken souls—and us—to another realm of the senses.
The setting: the early 1940s, New York—city of refuge, city of hope, with the specter of a red-hot Europe at war.
From the Goodreads description
Unspeakable Things is a dark (very dark) and amazing book, both disturbing and beautiful. Although this is a book about the Holocaust and its consequences the unspeakable things in the title are for the most part sexual abuse rather than violent death. The phrase "Unspeakable Things" is first used in the book by the Russian countess Anna to describe what happens to her at the hands of Rasputin, who is called The Devil. Anna is a tiny woman with a humpback and a long nose and whiskers growing out of a facial mole, which have earned her the nickname “the Rat.” But her "deformity" seems to attract the perverted attentions of not only the mad monk but also the German doctor Felix, a Nazi fetishist and asexual predator on the young children brought to him by their Jewish mothers. Note: if the subject of sexual perversion is difficult for you, do not read this book.