Book Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Heather Morris, a New Zealand author, wrote a fictional account of the concentration camp experience of two Slovakian Jews during World War II. The story was first written as a screenplay and later adapted into the novel format I read. In 1942 Lale Sokolov, the protagonist, arrives at Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland. When SS guards realize his linguistic abilities, they reassign Lale from manual labor to being the Tätowierer. He spends the remaining 2.5 years of the war tattooing numbers onto the incoming prisoners. One of the women he tattoos makes her “mark” on his heart and they fall in love.

To be honest, I would not recommend this book to most people. The novel is written in the present tense, which in my opinion, makes reading a novel clumsy and awkward. Also, while the incredible testament of human perseverance and courage is wound through book, the interchanges between characters feels shallow and too modern for the setting of the story. The author actually met and interviewed Lale (super cool chance to tell a profound story), but then seemed to try to make the novel a sappy tale of passionate forbidden romance (although that thankfully didn’t take shape). The Tattooist of Auschwitz simply read like an empty young adult novel.

Lale’s story was so interesting that I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the novel is adapted to film in the coming years. Maybe a historical writer will sensibly re-write the story into the non-fiction account that it deserves.

This book is (maybe) for you if you also like: Schindler’s List, Unbroken, historical accounts of World War II or if you’ve ever visited a concentration camp.

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