“Save the one, save the world” (72).
Heather Morris’ The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a historical fiction novel based on the true story of Lale Sokolov—a Slovakian Jew and survivor of the Holocaust—who did everything and anything he could to keep himself and the love of his life, Gita, from death. Becoming the concentration camps’ tattooist was only the beginning.
WWII and the Holocaust are two events in history that can never be forgotten. There have been countless documentaries, war films, books (both fictional and not) that recount what happened 80 years ago. Lale Solokov’s life as Auschwitz’s tattooist is just another story that needs to be told.
With there being hundreds, if not thousands, of stories about the Holocaust out in the world, I have to say The Tattooist of Auschwitz is not the best. In fact, this is the first book I’ve read where I felt completely emotionless through the entire narrative. It was hard for me to care at all for the characters and what was happening around them because everything is told instead of shown and emotional scenes are summarized.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz was originally a screenplay that the author (who is a screenwriter) then adapted into a novel, which explains why the narrative is so emotionless: it reads like a script. The story is told in third person present tense (much like a screenplay) and because of this, there’s this sense of detachment from the story as we’re told what Lale Solokov is doing and how he feels.
“Lale is overcome with emotion as he hurries back to the block” (72).
“There is no sign of Gita. So it must be.” (74).
“Lale steps back, knocking into the door behind him. He is recoiling from the sad province of these objects” (76).
“He exchanges a glance with her that tells her all she needs to know” (95).
There are also entire scenes where Lale is interacting with another character, and everything is summarized:
“That evening, Lale and Nadya converse long into the night” (104).
“When Lale asks Nadya for opinions, he finds Nadya’s answers similar to those his mother would give” (105)
“He questions the men extensively on what they know about the Russians. The replies are vague, but enough to provoke slight optimism” (204).
What opinions would his mother give? You never find out!
It gets worse from there. There’s a scene where the inmates play soccer with the SS—a scene that should’ve been exciting and full of action— and you barely get a paragraph:
“Ten minutes into the game, the prisoners have scored two goals to nil” (120).
A historical fiction novel about the Holocaust that’s based on a true story should make you feel something. Even the romance fell flat, which is sad because it really happened!
Honestly, the author’s notes at the end, where she talks about her interactions with Lale was the most engaging part of the book.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz was frustrating to read at times, but I’m glad Lale Solokov’s story is out there in the world. While the writing wasn’t that great, it wasn’t awful, and while the narrative could’ve been better, I never felt the urge to DNF it.
I will say that if you’re looking for a good story on the Holocaust that will make you feel all the feelings, read Elie Wiesel’s Night.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz
I give this book 3 out of 5 stars. Like I said before, the narrative wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t good either, and there are definitely better stories out there that have to do with the Holocaust. I think if it hadn’t been told in third person present tense and everything hadn’t been summarized, this would’ve been a great book.
What do you think? Did you read it and like it? Let me know in the comments!