Blurb: I tattooed a number on her arm. She tattooed her name on my heart.
In 1942, Lale Solokov 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.
Title: The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Author: Heather Morris
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Romance
This book is based on the true story of Lale Solokov and follows his journey from free man to becoming the tattooer at Auschwitz-Birkenau. His will to survive is monumentally increased by meeting a fellow prisoner, Gita, whom he loves at first sight.
I thought that this story was really well-written, capturing the feelings of the characters and the horrors of their experiences with honesty and grace. I could tell that this book had been well researched, even before finding out the extensive conversations that Morris had had with the real Lale. I always feel that when books centre on this time period and topic, nothing should be shied away from to make the reader feel more comfortable and I appreciated that Morris didn’t leave anything upsetting out as it really gives a fuller picture of Auschwitz and Lale’s story. The characters were three-dimensional and well explored. I found Baretski to be a really interesting character – obviously someone to inherently dislike due to his role at the camp and lack of remorse for what was happening, but it was intriguing to see his attitude towards Lale change. He was content to help him out from time to time, despite condemning other prisoners, and began to see him as a person. While this definitely didn’t excuse him from his crimes, it offered a fascinating look at guard/prisoner relationships that we don’t often hear about.
I was so touched by Lale and Gita’s story in this book, especially knowing that Morris spoke at length with Lale about his life before writing the book, even visiting his home town and the camp in which he spent several years of his life. This meant that my enjoyment of this book didn’t end with the epilogue. There are several following chapters with pictures of Lale and Gita’s life, maps of the camp and documents with their names listed. The recounts of Morris’ conversations with Lale were moving and the message from their son, Gary, was really heartwarming.
As for what I disliked about this book, I really struggled to think of anything. The only reason for the slightly reduced rating was that I couldn’t help but compare it to the Once series by Morris Gleitzman (you’ve probably heard me talk about how much I love it by now) which really got to me. While the books are different in regards to the narration and certain experiences, they’re both set during the same time period and told by Jewish people.
I know that a lot of people have criticised this book for not being completely factual but I don’t think that this should put you off reading it. Morris hasn’t claimed to have written non-fiction, but instead a fictional story based on the experiences of real people who gave her permission to do so. To me, it feels like a lot of nit-picking and any potential inaccuracies didn’t take away from the story for me.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in this period of history but wants a change from non-fiction accounts. This is a truly inspiring account of surviving one of the worst periods of history by whatever means necessary and how love is found even in the darkest of places.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Have you read anything similar? I’d love to know!