What I’m Reading: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz (The Tattooist of Auschwitz, #1)From the book jacket:

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

My review:

This really is a harrowing story, as all novels about the Holocaust usually are, but there was something about The Tattooist of Auschwitz that was heart-warming at the same time. How could a love so deep come out of such a tragic and horrific event? Truly, Lale and Gita’s passion for each other spilled over into their passion to survive one of the most horrific events known to mankind.

I found The Tattooist of Auschwitz to be a fast read, which is unusual compared to most of the other historical fiction stories I have read. Rather than building up, the author almost jumps right into things and shifts occasionally to before Lale’s sentence, which helped keep me drawn to the storyline.

The ending, however, left me wanting a little more. I found that after the concentration camps were liberated, the storyline got to the point too quickly. One thing would happen, then another, and another, but there was very little detail.

I wasn’t until I read the the afterword and the author’s notes when I realized why this may have been. To learn that this was based on a true story and that Morris befriended Lale himself made the style of writing make more sense.

Though heart-wrenching, The Tattooist of Auschwitz proves that love can be found even in the darkest moments, and that you can push through anything if you have someone to live for.

My rating: ★★★★½/5

 

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What I’m Reading: We Were the Lucky Ones

From the book jacket:

It is the spring of 1939 and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety. 

As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent, while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working grueling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere. 

An extraordinary, propulsive novel, We Were the Lucky Ones demonstrates how in the face of the twentieth century’s darkest moment, the human spirit can endure and even thrive.

My review:

Up until I read the author’s notes about the story, I was leaning hard towards giving We Were the Lucky Ones four stars. There was a LOT going on; between the number of characters, the numerous events, and variety of locations, it was hard to keep track at times.

That’s not to say that I didn’t admire the characters’ resilience during such a terrifying time in their lives. I found myself reading page after page just to find out what would happen to each of them. I don’t often find myself tearing up over books but there were definitely moments in this one that made me reach for the tissues, not out of sorrow but joy. I definitely wanted the world for the Kurcs but knowing the harrowing time I didn’t ever get my hopes up and always prepared my heart for the worst.

At times I found it all to be a little unbelievable, I mean, the title of the book kind of gives everything away, but then I read the author’s notes and my opinion was changed. It definitely deserved one more star, perhaps not for the writing but for the amazing journey Hunter took in collecting every bit and piece of information to put the story together. We Are the Lucky Ones is truly a family story worth passing down through every generation.

My rating: ★★★★★/5