The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Published by Harper Paperbacks on January 27th, 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction
“If you wake up in the morning, it is a good day.”
Oof. I might need to take a break from reading WWII historical fiction. At least for the next little while. It really takes it out of you even though reading about it will never compare to the horrors real people were subject to.
I can see why this was one of the most raved about books in 2018. I’m glad I read it, too. Even though the numbers tattooed on prisoners arms is a symbol we’re all familiar with, I never heard anything beyond its purpose. I didn’t know there was a story to be told.
Lale Sokolov is a Slovakian Jew who ends up at Auschwitz-äirkenau after volunteering himself to save his brother. When the Germans discover his ability to speak several languages, they put him to work as one of the Tätowierer — the German word for tattooist — and has to permanently mark his fellow prisoners. He meets a woman named Gita Furman and vows to survive the camp in order to marry her.
Morris has been quoted saying that she initially saw Sokolov and Furman’s story as a movie and wrote it as a screenplay. And I agree it should be adapted for the screen some day.
I think that’s where I hesitate to rate this book higher than a 3.5 out of 5 bubble teas. The author’s writing style made me feel very detached from the events in the story. It was a lot of, “He did this” and “He did that and then he felt this.” It was written rather factually and not emotionally. It read more of a timeline in a non-fiction book than it did as a memoir of sorts.
The dialogue often felt clunky and awkward between characters. Sometimes scenes would shift in the matter of a sentence and it felt like a lot of the story was left out. I understand that not every day is filled with non-stop violence, but I wish there had been more detail about the prisons, what other jobs people had, and the other interactions Sokolov had during his time there. I wanted to read more about Sokolov helping and saving his fellow prisoners.
I also felt like Gita’s perspective would’ve really helped this book as well. Although, I understand why that wasn’t included since Morris only had information from Sokolov about his time there.
At times, I felt like the characters were very underdeveloped. Do we really know who Sokolov is besides his characteristic of being charming? What about Gita and her friends?
I feel a bit heartless giving this book a rating below 5 when I know Morris worked closely with Sokolov on it. But I think there are other novels written about this time period that are better. You are brought into the scene with the characters while this book you’re observing from a very far distance. Removed from it all.
Having said that, it was a very interesting story. And if Morris manages to make this into a movie, I will definitely go see it.