Published: 11th January 2018
Started reading: 4th June
Finished reading: 7th June
This book is based on a deeply moving and often heartbreaking true story. I have taken the synopsis from Amazon, as the one on Goodreads gives too much away for those not familiar with the story of Lale and Gita.
I tattooed a number on her arm. She tattooed her name on my heart.
In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust.
Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too.
So begins one of the most life-affirming, courageous, unforgettable and human stories of the Holocaust: the love story of the tattooist of Auschwitz.
What can I say about this book? Is there anything I can say that doesn’t pale into insignificance when you compare it to the raw and very real story that is contained in these 288 pages? Well, I shall try my best…
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is beautifully written, with endearing and spirited protagonists. It never hides from the horrific backdrop of life as a prisoner in a concentration camp, and this aspect of the story is written with the utmost sensitivity. Through the point of view of both Lale and Gita, Heather Morris has a lot to say, and she certainly touches a nerve.
Right at the heart of the story lies Lale, with his compassion and his incredible determination, but underpinning everything is his love for Gita. Their relationship is a heartwarming feature in what is a very affecting novel.
Morris writes the book in the third person present tense, and her style is exceptionally simple. She does not opt for lengthy descriptions and scene dressing; there is just no need. As a result, the story makes much more of an impact, and the mixture of tragedy and love is etched in your mind when you reach the end.
There is only one thing I can criticise about The Tattooist of Auschwitz, and that is the pacing towards the end. Although the quality and clarity of writing is forever there, it is all just a little fast. The events go by like a whirlwind, and the final reunion is over before it begins.
To make even the slightest negative comment about this book makes me feel guilty, though. Overall it is powerful, emotional, and unforgettable. I would say that this is a must-read.
This book contains very raw descriptions of the Holocaust and the unspeakable crimes that took place. It is an emotional read, but if anything like this is likely to trigger a negative reaction, then you might want to avoid it.
From New Zealand, Heather Morris has spent many years working as a screenwriter. The Tattooist of Auschwitz was originally meant to be a screenplay, but it was reworked into what is her debut novel.
She first met Lale Sokolov in 2003, when he was 87 years of age. Over the course of many meetings before his death in 2006, he recounted the time he spent as a prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the horrors that he experienced there, falling in love with Gita, and his life after escaping the camp.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz has received universal acclaim since its publication in January 2018.
Like I said, this is a must-read. It is both a harrowing and a heartwarming tale written with total simplicity. I award this book 4.5 stars.
Happy reading 🙂