The Tattooist of Auschwitz – A book review

I am a self professed World War II fiction junkie. I scour through the internet for any WWII related anecdotes and historical facts. So when the whole world was reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris could I be left out? Actually I was, I read it real late. 

Anyway.. I caught up with the trend and I am posting my review even later than what I had planned. But I am here now, and shall we talk about The Tattooist of Auschwitz?

About the Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz Cover

Book Name: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Author: Heather Morris

Genre: Fiction –  HistoricalDrama

Characters: Lale Sokolov, Gita Sokolov, CIlka

Setting: Krompachy, Slovakia, Auschwitz, Poland

Plot Summary of the Tattooist of Auschwitz

Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, holds a relatively privileged position at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist). He risks his life several times to scrap off jewelry and money of dead Jew prisoners and then exchange them to buy more food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

He feels an immediate connection with Gita, one of the prisoners he had to tattoo and the affection is quite mutual. Despite the circumstances, they sneak out and meet each other, at every opportunity they get. They vow to marry if they ever escape the camp, if at all. 

Did they get to keep their promise? Did they escape? The answers to these questions form the rest of The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

Book review of the Tattooist of Auschwitz

I couldn’t stop myself from mentally putting myself in Lale’s place while reading the book, from my comfortable couch, and then feel guilty about it. It must have been hard keeping up his spirits and humanity throughout the book and his real life, and I loved it

I particularly liked the fact that how he made friends with the people from other countries and races, despite whatever he has been “taught at home” about them, given how stubborn people were on those days. 

When I think of a tale of a real life survivor from a genocide, I wanted to cry, be shocked and be enraged. Sadly that is not what I felt. ⁠And I am sucker for emotional readers, and the plot was all that. But it didn’t work for me at all. For me it was just another romance, and worse, it romanticizes the whole harrowing experience at the concentration camp. 

And I definitely was not prepared for The Tattooist of Auschwitz being a romance-centric book. That one might be on me, I should have read the blurb/ synopsis better. 

Also, while reading the book, someone sent me an interview of how the author wasn’t true to the real tattooist of Auschwitz’s story (which she was borrowing) and they had a dispute. Well, that put me a little off. Poor guy! 

Things that worked for me

  • As I have clearly established, I love the WWII premise and historical fiction in general.
  • I loved that there was optimism and time for love even during those dire days. 

Things that didn’t work for me

  • I wished the storytelling was better and it actually made me feel something.
  • It was a romance book, predominantly and I expected more of the history part. 
  • It may be just me, but I felt the book was romanticizing the concentration camps, which is horrible if you think about it.

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If you want to read a romance from WWII era, choose The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. But if you want to read about the war itself or what it does to ordinary people, there are better books to choose from.

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Have you read the Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris? How did you like it? What other World War II books have you read? Let us talk.

24 responses to “The Tattooist of Auschwitz – A book review”

  1. Hey Elgee,

    I studied the Holocaust for my degree and have read this particular book (I have the sequel too waiting to be read), and whilst I take on board your comments regarding it being a love story, I respectfully disagree that it romanticised the terrible and truly harrowing experience of those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

    The hope, love, and an incredible desire for ‘normality’ the Jews tried to maintain is often overlooked, yet there are some remarkable, brave, true and heart rendering accounts of all of these things and much more notable undertakings too. People did fall in love and they married in secret in the death camps too. Women got pregnant and hid both their pregnancy and the subsequent birth from the Nazis. Once born theses babies were hidden and protected by everyone in the overcrowded huts.

    The Jews hope and love was equalled by their determination and ingenuity, and was truly incredible, given their dire circumstances, coupled with the knowledge they could die at any given moment.

    I think that this aspect of the Holocaust is both represented and sensitively portrayed in the novel.

    Have you read The Boy In The Stripped Pyjamas? For a children’s book, that too is a gripping read, and whilst it’s a work of fiction it does give an interesting perspective, that of the German and Jewish children.

    I really enjoyed reading your review, it’s always interesting to learn other people’s opinions and thoughts, and yours are very salient Elgree. ☺ I also like how you put your reviews together, it makes them very easy to follow and therefore, good to read.

    Thank you.

    • That is news to me. I am glad you brought it to my notice. Thank you!

      I loved The Boy In The Stripped Pyjamas! And thank you for your kind words about my review.

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