The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

5 Stars from me

This is just one of those books that everyone should read. It is both humbling and beautiful, the prose is elegant and flows perfectly as you follow the story of Lale… a story that in other hands could be harrowing to the point of unreadable but Heather Morris achieves a wonderful balance of telling the story without glorying in the horror.

Lale – what a character, what a guy, the world needs more Lale’s. That this is a true account of a real man makes this all the more powerful and haunting. Lale, a Slovakian Jew, is by all accounts an incredible man who speaks many languages, has high intellect, lacks arrogance and can charm the birds from the trees. His brilliance and braveness shine throughout this book as his does pure compassion for all of his fellow (wo)men.

His love for Gita was really quite humbling, another man in his shoes may well have had his pick of the ladies throughout this tale and yet from one brief meeting his heart was set – this is was drives his passion to survive. His love for his mother and other older ladies throughout the tale was also quite charming and heartwarming.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz isn’t the type of book I would normally choose, I read it as part of a book group and I am so glad that I did – I know that it will stay with me for a very long time.

Highly recommended.

 

Synopsis: In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions. 

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Room by Emma Donoghue

5 Stars from Me

This is one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read for ages and I was thrilled to finally lay my hands upon a copy.

Room is an incredibly sweet tale told mostly with an air of untainted innocence (which is odd considering the circumstances of the Room and it’s occupants). Of course the flip-side would be to view the story through an incredibly dark lens of fear, rape, pain, deteriorating mental health, depravity and imprisonment but it is the beauty and love that comes across.

Pretty much a tale of two halves, the first of which immerses you in the mind of 5 year old Jack and his incredible mum who has found a way to make being prisoners in a tiny room into an acceptable, if not pleasurable, way of living. The second focuses on their rehabilitation following their escape and Jack’s difficulty with not being in Room with all his items of comfort.

This has all the makings of a book that will stand the test of time and should form part of English literature classes for it truly contains so much depth and magic within its pages. Question after question after question forms in your mind long after you finish the book and not all of the answers are comfortable ones.

I’d love to know what prompted Room in Emma Donoghue’s mind and how she was able to put together with such realism and yet such purity.

Synopsis: Jack is five, and excited about his birthday. He lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures eleven feet by eleven feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real – only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits that there’s a world outside…

Told in Jack’s voice, Room is the story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible. Unsentimental and sometimes funny, devastating yet uplifting, Room is a novel like no other.