Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Alexis: Read 12/10/18

This is a hard book for me to rate. The story, as are all Holocaust stories, is dark, harrowing, and resonant. This is a story of survival and love. It focuses on Lale and Gita, who manage to fall in love amidst the horrors of Auschwitz.

Parts of the novel hit me hard. It’s impossible to read a book about the Holocaust and not come away emotionally affected by it. The knowledge that this was not only based on a real historical event but also on the lives of two very real people played in the back of my mind as I read. I liked that it was written in present tense, which propels you into the story.

But how do you rate a book like this? The perspective is one of the most interesting parts of the book. Lale, as the Tattooist, has a higher position than most of his fellow prisoners. I was wholly involved in his storyline of using his position in order to barter jewelry for food, help feed other prisoners, and help save other prisoners’ lives. His feelings of revulsion at tattooing his own people conflict with his instinct to do what he must to survive.

Yet chunks of this book still fall flat. The writing style is awkward in places. Half of Lale and Gita’s relationship feels real and raw, and half feels stitled. In the “about the author” section of the book, it’s mentioned that Morris originally wrote this story as a screenplay, and this seems to fit with the style of some sections of the book. Near the end, it’s mentioned that Lale’s way of dealing with the horrors of his imprisonment is emotional detachment. This could be the reason for the stiltedness, as the writing could reflect Lale’s repressed emotions. However, I don’t think this was a purposeful choice on Morris’ part.  

VERDICT: 4 out of 5 stars

 

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