The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris // Book Review

Length: 288 pages
Publisher: Harper (September 4, 2018)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Audience: PG-13
Buy On: Amazon

SYNOPSIS:

The #1 International Bestseller & New York Times Bestseller

This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is an extraordinary document, a story about the extremes of human behavior existing side by side: calculated brutality alongside impulsive and selfless acts of love. I find it hard to imagine anyone who would not be drawn in, confronted and moved. I would recommend it unreservedly to anyone, whether they’d read a hundred Holocaust stories or none.

Graeme Simsion, internationally-bestselling author of The Rosie Project

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

MY REVIEW:

I do not know how to start this review than to just say that this book was P. H. E. N. O. M. E. N. A. L.!!!! Wow. When I finished this book, I had to pause a minute and take it all in.

Heather Morris has one of the best, if not THE best, writing style of a fictitous author I have ever read!

She draws the reader in with such eloquence and describes every detail so expertly that the scenes seem to pop up and come to life in one’s mind.

In addition, the characters are written so poetically as to make the readers mourn when the characters mourn, laugh, when they laugh, and hurt when they hurt.

Content Warning: Many uses of several different cuss words, including f***, sh**, bi***, and a**, among others. (The language was not used in a flipant way as to demote the value of the book. It is a book about a war, death, and love, and in a time where so much dignity was stripped from humanity, strong vocabulary can be one of the only ways to express oneself.) A few non explicit sex scenes. Scenes with heavy topics, experiences, and thoughts. And scenes with some explicitly-described graphic images. (Such as prisoners being gassed in a cattle car).

Content wise, I would place this book under a strong PG-13 rating. With the many disturbing stories, and experiences, I do not reccomend any young children under the age of 13 read this book. The content is much to mature for a younger audience. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed The Tattooist of Auschwitz and would definately reccomend to an older audience!

Fun Fact: The Tattooist of Auschwitz is actually based on the real life events of Lale Sokolov and Gita Furman.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Heather Morris is a native of New Zealand, now resident in Australia. For several years, while working in a large public hospital in Melbourne, she studied and wrote screenplays, one of which was optioned by an Academy Award-winning screenwriter in the US. In 2003, Heather was introduced to an elderly gentleman who ‘might just have a story worth telling’. The day she met Lale Sokolov changed both their lives. Their friendship grew and Lale embarked on a journey of self-scrutiny, entrusting the innermost details of his life during the Holocaust to her. Heather originally wrote Lale’s story as a screenplay – which ranked high in international competitions – before reshaping it into her debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

BOOK EXCERPT (from Chapter 1):

APRIL 1942

Lale rattles across the countryside, keeping his head up and himself to himself. The 24-year-old sees no point in getting to know the man beside him, who occasionally nods off against his shoulder; Lale doesn’t push him away. He is just one among countless young men stuffed into wagons designed to transport livestock. Having been given no idea where they were headed, Lale dressed in his usual attire: a pressed suit, clean white shirt and tie. Always dress to impress.

He tries to assess the dimensions of his confinement. The wagon is about two and a half metres wide. But he can’t see the end to gauge its length. He attempts to count the number of men on this journey with him. But with so many heads bobbing up and down, he eventually gives up. He doesn’t know how many wagons there are. His back and legs ache. His face itches. The stubble reminds him that he hasn’t bathed or shaved since he boarded two days ago. He is feeling less and less himself.

When the men try to engage him in conversation, he responds with words of encouragement, trying to turn their fear into hope. We stand in shit but let us not drown in it. Abusive remarks are muttered at him for his appearance and manner. Accusations of hailing from an upper class. ‘Now look where it’s got you.’ He tries to shrug the words off and meet the glares with smiles. Who am I trying to kid? I’m as scared as everyone else.

A young man locks eyes with Lale and pushes through the scrum of bodies towards him. Some men shove him on his way through. It’s only your own space if you make it yours.

‘How can you be so calm?’ the young man says. ‘They had rifles. The bastards pointed rifles at us and forced us into this … this cattle train.’

Lale smiles at him. ‘Not what I was expecting either.’

‘Where do you think we’re going?’

‘It doesn’t matter. Just remember, we are here to keep our families safe at home.’

‘But what if …?’

‘Don’t “what if”. I don’t know, you don’t know, none of us knows. Let’s just do as we’re told.’

‘Should we try and take them when we stop, since we outnumber them?’ The young man’s pale face is pinched with confused aggression. His balled-up hands box pathetically in front of him.

‘We have fists, they have rifles – who do you think is going to win that fight?’

The young man returns to silence. His shoulder is wedged into Lale’s chest and Lale can smell oil and sweat in his hair. His hands drop and hang limply by his side. ‘I’m Aron,’ he says.

‘Lale.’

Others around them tune in to their conversation, raising their heads towards the two men before lapsing back into silent reveries, sinking deep into their own thoughts. What they all share is fear. And youth. And their religion. Lale tries to keep his mind off theorising about what might lie ahead. He has been told he is being taken to work for the Germans, and that is what he is planning to do. He thinks of his family back home. Safe. He has made the sacrifice, has no regrets. He would make it again and again to keep his beloved family at home, together…

* * *

2 thoughts on “The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris // Book Review

  1. A guy at church just this week asked if I had heard of this book. Yes, I had heard of it. The title “Tattooist of Auschwitz” stays with you. He asked if I wanted to read it. I wasn’t sure. I have read so many WWII books. Am I up to another?
    Thanks for the review of this book. It gives me more to go on while I decide whether to read it.💗

    Liked by 1 person

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