The Tattooist of Auschwitz
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published 2018, 257 pages
Originally written as a screen play, this based-on-true novel is an amazing debut story. The author notes explain that Morris spent three years interviewing and chatting and learning the story of Lale. They became friends as she listened and absorbed both the horror of concentration camps and the power of his love for Gita.
This seems a strong and likely distressing premise for a gripping story. I've read quite a few books about WWII and the camps and, unfortunately, this isn't one of my favorites. The story itself did give me new information and insight on the way the prisoners were tattooed and a little bit about the restrictive daily life (though that's been depicted in other books as well).
Lale, through a series of odd jobs and connections, became the main tattooist for Auschwitz and adjoining camp Birkenau. A soul-crushing job, but he learned to keep his head down and just do the work. Until one day he looked up and met the eyes of a young woman that captured his attention and soon, his love.
"These young women were brought to this camp as girls, and now - not one of them having yet reached the age of twenty-one - they are broken, damaged young women. He knows they will never grow to be the women they were meant to be. Their futures have been derailed, and there will be no getting back on the same track. The visions they once had of themselves, as daughters, sisters, wives and mothers, workers, travelers, and lovers, will forever be tainted by what they've witnessed and endured."
At great risk to himself, Lale uses his position to barter for tradeable items and obtains and shares food (the rare piece of chocolate!) and other necessities with prisoners. Even with the love story and the selflessness of Lale, the story fell flat for me.
The writing is stilted and not gracefully descriptive of anything. The dialog is kind of lame. I found the plotting okay, but the actual telling of Lale's story came across very dryly. All of this leads me to realize I just never became engaged or invested in Lale's story. I think it's a story that needs to be told, and according to the GR stats, I'm definitely in the minority in not loving this book.
In spite of my lack of enjoyment of the book, I can see that it would be an interesting book club read and the differing opinions might make for a lively discussion.
photo of Auschwitz via Getty photos