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Review – “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris

Politics will help you understand the world until you don’t understand it anymore, and then it will get you thrown into a prison camp. Politics and religion both.

Holocaust. A word that reeks horror, a word that puts the entire humanity to shame, a word that is both a reminder of what men can do and something that is so terrible, that it must be forgotten. I have, in the past year, read a few books that had WWII as their backdrop. I loved them all, some more than the others. So it was natural for me to want to read The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, the story of Lale, and the love of his life, Gita.

Lale Sokolov, like the thousands of people from all across Europe, finds himself in a concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau as the Nazis rise with their military prowess. Having misunderstood the intentions of the SS while boarding the train bound to the camp, Lale soon learns the true horrors that await him and others. The chances of survival are bleak, and those bleak chances are reserved for those who can put their morality aside, or whatever is left of it. Lale, not wanting to be thrown on the death cart again, accepts the one shot at surviving the brutality of the camp, much against his wishes, and becomes the tattooist of Auschwitz.
On one such day, overworked, Lale finds himself holding the hand of a young girl, waiting for him to finish tattooing her number. When Lale looks up and meets the girl’s eyes, he can only see her in the human mess that the camp is. Vowing to survive the hell he is in, Lale begins his journey to locate the girl he has fallen desperately in love with and figuring a way to spend the rest of his life with her.

Let me begin by saying that all stories that came out of the survivors of the concentration camps of Nazis are inspiring. Whether it be a simple gesture of giving their food share to someone needier than themselves or giving up/risking their lives for complete strangers, each and every human who braved those camps to see the final liberation, is worth remembering and celebrating. While I picked up this book with high expectations, Heather Morris managed to do what I never thought was possible. She took one such inspiring story of a survivor and turned it into the dullest cash cow that I’ve ever come across. Yes, the book is simply not up to the mark where one can refer it to themselves, let alone anyone else! What could have been a beautiful story of love blossoming in the worst of places that human history has seen, turned out to be just another means for someone to fill in their bank account by playing with emotions, both of the deceased and the readers who bought the book. I am glad I didn’t buy this and instead waited for it to be listed on Amazon Prime and read it for free. I would never have been able to forgive myself for contributing to this author’s growth.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that the author is in fact, a screenwriter. The characters are aplenty, Lale, Gita, and her friends, Cilka, Lale’s German guard (it is so forgettable that I have forgotten the names even though it has been just 2 days since I finished this book!) but none of them have any character to themselves. They would fall as flat as a surfboard if I went looking for any kind of development. The entire narration is unimaginative with no prose whatsoever except, they did this, and they did that, and then they said this and that. The scenes skip without any connection. You’d be reading about Lale struggling in the camp and in the next line, he’d be thinking about Gita. the ending was all botched up. The climax came as suddenly as Hitler had conquered Poland! I mean what the hell! What was the rush? It isn’t like a screen adaptation where you’d want to finish the story in 2 hours, it is a novel for God’s sake! Take all your time and make it a 500 pages novel, people would still read, and honestly, they’d be happier. There is nothing good that can be said here.
Morris mentions that this story is true and that Lale himself narrated her his life’s story, starting in 2003 and before passing away in 2006. She even goes on to finish the book much before we hit the last page, at around 80%, the story stops abruptly. My question to the author, why did it take you over 12 years to pen this book? It isn’t as if it is a masterpiece, it is as lame as an author could get. I have my sincere doubts about her claim of meeting Lale and having received his story to tell to the world. NOT recommended at all.

P.S. All the anger and hatred is directed towards the author, Lale and his story hold the same respect as any other survivor and their story.

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