The Tattooist of Auschwitz Review
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris: My Review
Rating: 4/5 stars
If you wake up in the morning, it is a good day.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz made me realise how much I love books that are based on true stories. Don't get me wrong, I certainly could not live in a world where fiction books don't exist, but there is just so much value to stories like this, stories that need to be heard and remembered and probably wouldn't be if it weren't for literature. Fortunately, Morris' endeavors now mean Lale's story will never be forgotten and will impact and change many lives as more and more people read it.
Lale Sokolov was a Slovakian Jew who was granted the privileged position of tattooist at the camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau to mark new prisoners as they enter. This gives him special perks including more rations, better sleeping conditions and more freedom around the camp. Because of this freedom, he is also able to exchange the money and valuable possessions of those who died in the gas chambers for food and medicine, which he provides his fellow prisoners with. I wish I knew the number of how many lives his generosity saved - the way he never gives up and is willing to risk his life countless times to help others is worth its weight in gold. During the darkest of times, there will always be people who shine, and Lale is one of them.
While giving a tattoo, he meets 18-year-old Gita who instantly captures his heart. As upsetting and unimaginable as this tale is, there is such a beautiful love story as its core that I could not stop smiling at, and the determination each of them showed to survive and be together was so spectacular, it's hard to believe it isn't a work of fiction. As well as Lale and Gita, every character was portrayed brilliantly, whether they were good or bad, and I could imagine the whole true scenario with great clarity, which on many occasions made it extremely upsetting and hard to read but equally an important situation to comprehend. Each of them are pushed to the breaking point but never actually break, some fortunate enough to miraculously survive during the bleakest of times. But while the book is about these things, it's also about the triumph of the human spirit, about compassion and hope and never losing your faith.
Morris took several years to write Lale's story and I believe she has written a book that Lale would be extremely proud of. Her writing is filled with utmost care and consideration, putting our everyday problems into perspective against one of the most brutal and sickening periods of history.
The reason why I'm not giving The Tattooist of Auschwitz a full 5 stars is because, despite the horrific events and immense struggles faced by the characters, I didn't feel as much emotion as I expected to, which I think is due to the writing being less rich with emotion than other historical books I've read. It had a kind of storytelling tone, which I suppose makes sense as the author is of course retelling a story that isn't hers, but at times I just felt an emotional disconnect from the characters. That being said, it is certainly impossible to dislike Lale and how he uses his position to alter the fate of so many innocent prisoners. I think the stark contrast between humanity at its best and at its worst that is present in The Tattooist of Auschwitz is something that everyone should be exposed to, and while the content of the book is undeniably harrowing, there aren't really any overly graphic descriptions so I think the appeal of the book shouldn't be lost on younger audiences either.
There are sure to be many other tales from history that will always unfortunately remain untold, but I'm very glad we at least have Lale's, a man whose strength and selflessness can now inspire generations.