What’s it about?
In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust.
Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too.
So begins one of the most life-affirming, courageous, unforgettable and human stories of the Holocaust: the love story of the tattooist of Auschwitz.
I’d first come across this book via Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year podcast when he interviewed Heather Morris, it’s very interesting and definitely worth a listen so was really pleased when it was chosen for our December book club read (I know, a little late) and one that we all appreciated. It doesn’t matter how many books or movies you watch about the Holocaust and concentration camps, it will never be anything less than horrific and this book isn’t anything different.
I do have an admiration for those authors that can take a bunch of facts and weave them into a full on novel. It didn’t really matter to us as a group that it’s been highlighted that some of the events or locations in the book didn’t happen or didn’t happen at a particular time etc. I think we appreciated that gaps would need to be filled and that just maybe they may not have been Lale’s story but could have belonged to someone else.
What comes across mostly from this book, and which is probably true of most books like this, is the things that ordinary people are capable of doing to survive and doing the wrong things for the right reasons. I find it incredulous that survivors have been tried as collaborators…I mean seriously wtf is that all about!!
One small observation about the writing style is it sometimes reads a bit clunky in the way the sentences are linked together – it’s a bit stilted. We, as a group, wondered if this is because the novel was originally a screenplay and hasn’t quite translated perfectly. It was worth the read but I suspect there may be better written books out there if this is a subject matter that interests you.
Small print for info
No of pages: 320