Book Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Review by Emily Fuller

Lale Sokolov is an utterly charming and self-assured young man, who happens to take pleasure in the finer details of life – dressing well and indulging in women especially. However he is also a Polish Jew, and therefore is condemned to a darkest and hopeless fate in Auschwitz concentration camp. Upon arrival, Lale’s acute sense of perception and cleverness secures him the role of the “Tatowierer” – where he is ordered to mark his fellow prisoners as soon as they arrive at the camp. It is here where he meets the alluring Gita, who may just give him a reason to fight for their freedom.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a semi-biographical account of Lale’s personal experience in his fight for survival during one of our darkest and most regretful periods in history – the Holocaust. Admittedly, I was feeling quite sceptical to embrace reading this book. Working in a bookstore, you see a constant influx of countless historical fiction novels based around the World War II period, which often can be emotionally devoid, overly romanticised, or embed various historical inconsistencies. So, when I first heard about the release of this novel, my initial thought was “oh, not another one”. With thanks to my co-workers I was convinced to overlook my prejudices and give it a crack and needless to say, I was absolutely blown away. Not only was this novel well-written and researched, but the author really encapsulated the paradoxes and strengths of the human condition. Lale’s passion and fervour for life is something that has really stayed with me beyond finishing this book. You see time and time again his intuitive instinct of acting with utter kindness and selflessness, which is completely contrasted against the backdrop of pain, darkness and death. Additionally, in essence this does present itself with a thread of romance, which I know some people may feel a little adverse to. However, it is conveyed in such rawness and authenticity, you cannot help but feel appreciative of Lale and Gita’s willingness to open themselves to the prospect of love in such a morbid period where the dark cloud of uncertainty constantly looms over them. Ultimately, this novel is a testament to presenting the very best of humanity in the absolute cruelest of circumstances.

So all in all, I would recommend this thought-provoking piece of fiction to anyone who is interested in gaining a broader scope of awareness and sympathy for the reality and horror that occurred under the Hitler regime. I absolutely commend the author Heather Morris for this debut, who went to incredible lengths to portray Lale’s experience with honesty and sensitivity, which included her forming a very special friendship with Lale in his later years. You can easily sense that this novel was written with a great care and compassion, it was incredibly moving, devastating and inspiring – it definitely provided me with the reality shock I needed in order to put some of my everyday ‘problems’ into perspective.

Rating: 4.5/5

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