The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2018
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 4/5 stars
Morris takes us through the experience of Lale Sokolov, based on Ludwig ‘Lali’ Eisenburg, the Jewish man who becomes the Tattooist of Auschwitz. Lale survives the horrors of his surroundings in the concentration camp by reaching out to others whenever he can. Of all the individuals he helps, he feels the strongest connection to a woman named Gita. Lale and Gita meet whenever possible and dream about a future together after being freed from the camp. Enduring through countless struggles, the couple eventually has their dream fulfilled. Their lives are not perfect, but they remain grateful for even the simplest of things, especially their ability to stay together. Lale and Gita’s experience proves the redemption of human nature through the worst circumstances imaginable.
I was expecting great things from this novel and it mostly delivered. I finished the book in a few hours, and I felt like it provided a good sense of the horrors and hope of Lale and Gita’s experience.
The purposefully simple prose, probably a remnant of its original form as a screenplay, is engaging. The present tense format makes the narrative easy to read even while grappling with a difficult subject and complicated themes. Morris’s synthesis of the information does her credit.
Overall, The Tattooist of Auschwitz delivers on the “powerful true story of love and survival” it promised on the cover. There have been disputes concerning the accuracy of the historical details it describes, which are valid. But for me, it goes against the message of the novel to minutely dissect the intricacies of the writing because ultimately the larger truth speaks for itself. Lale’s story, thanks to Morris’s telling, teaches his mantra: “if you wake up in the morning, it is a good day.”
Based on the subject matter and the content, I would suggest that this book is best only for an audience of high school students or above. That being said, anyone who is able should read this book to recognize that no matter where you are or what has been taken from you, no one can take away your ability to choose kindness and love over selfishness and hate.