Sunday, 17 March 2019

The Tattooist of Auschwitz - Heather Morris


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 did I think?

When I won a competition to pick 3 books from Wordery, the first book on my list was The Tattooist of Auschwitz; the book that everyone seemed to be talking about.  We all know the story of Auschwitz and just thinking about it is enough to give me goosebumps, which is why I was surprised to feel so emotionally detached when reading this book.

Don't get me wrong, it is a powerful story of love conquers all and Lale's eternal love for Gita is very evident throughout the story.  I just didn't feel any of the horror and sadness that you would normally associate with a story set in Auschwitz.  Maybe that's a good thing though, and a conscious decision by Heather Morris to concentrate on the positives, as it was quite a refreshing change to see that something good came out of Auschwitz and Birkenau.

Lale's survival in Auschwitz is down to him being a bit of a wheeler dealer and he reminded me a bit of Del Boy; ducking and diving and getting people things that they asked for.  In that situation, everyone does what they need to do to survive and Lale kind of fell into becoming the T├Ątowierer.  What an awful job and one that I'm sure nobody would volunteer for, but if he hadn't been tattooing numbers on new entrants to the camp then he may have never met Gita.

I think you could tell that the story was originally written as a screenplay as the characters felt very one dimensional and flat, something that I'm sure would be rectified when shown on the screen.  Due to this, I didn't really connect or empathise with any of the characters.  I suppose the one that does spring to mind is Cilka, another prisoner who does what she has to do to stay alive and to protect her friends.  I'm not surprised to see that Cilka's story is the follow up to this book and I'm quite looking forward to reading it.

So even though I'm not raving about it, I still think it was a worthwhile read.  It's a quick, easy read and I think if I hadn't believed the hype about it being a weepy, emotional story I would probably have enjoyed the story of Lale and Gita's love against the odds a whole lot more.

I think everyone should read The Tattooist of Auschwitz and make up their own mind, however, I have no doubt that it will be a resounding success when it makes it to our screens.

My rating:


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