The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, Australia, 2018

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, Australia, 2018

Promoted as The Sunday Times Bestseller, this book is a prime example of what the modern phenomenon of bestseller often implies – an extremely well marketed title and not necessarily a great book.

The subject matter – yet another confronting story from the Holocaust – has sufficient ‘pull’ to grab people’s attention and suggest that they should read the book; however, unfortunately, the book itself does not live up to its own promise. The writing is mediocre with a surplus of, often inane, conversation. The subtlety, depth, and emotional layering that one would expect with a book exploring such a subject is absent, and at times I wondered if perhaps Morris was directing her writing towards a YA audience. Furthermore, the banality of the presention is not helped by the awkwardly managed romance that threads its way through the entire novel – definitely not Mills and Boon, but sufficiently unrealistic to leave the reader wondering whether or not to finish the book.

The story of how Lale Sokolov (a.k.a. Eisenberg) ended up in Auschwitz, and how, by chance, he became the tattooist (with special rights) is both interesting and moving. That he managed to survive in such a desperate situation for three years when many others were unable to last for more than a week is a mixture of good luck and an amazing will to surivive.

No one would disagree that the story itself is basically captivating, but the presentation does not do it justice. I am aware that Morris was simply the ‘channel’ for Lale Sokolov, who related his story to her, years after the event, and I can understand that she may have felt that it was her duty to present the story (of which she herself had no experience) in accordance with Sokolov’s memories. Sokolov may well have been a remarkable person, but, in the book, he is too one-sided, too good to be true. Perhaps if Morris had taken a few creative liberties; if she had explored the emotional depths of both the prisoners and their guards; if she had removed at least half of the conversation and concentrated on pulling her readers into the story; if she had occasionally focused on other sides of her main character (not just the good side); then perhaps the book may have been more rounded, more readable, and more worthy of the title: The Sunday Times Bestseller.

The image of Heather Morris is from

2 Replies to “The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, Australia, 2018”

  1. Totally agree Diane…The Book didn’t do anything for me. I was disappointed as I was expecting a lot more .

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