I am drawn to true stories and those based largely on fact, but it was the hype around this book that first put it on my radar.
“Lale Sokolov is well-dressed, a charmer, a ladies’ man. He is also a Jew. On the first transport from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942, Lale immediately stands out to his fellow prisoners. In the camp, he is looked up to, looked out for, and put to work in the privileged position of Tätowierer – the tattooist – to mark his fellow prisoners, forever. One of them is a young woman, Gita, who steals his heart at first glance.
His life given new purpose, Lale does his best through the struggle and suffering to use his position for good.”
Holocaust tales are by their very nature brutal and confronting, yet often counterbalanced by extraordinary courage, resilience, compassion and hope – the very worst and best of human behaviour. This book is all of those things and more. At its core, a love story for the ages.
But while my head tells me the story of Lale and Gita is profoundly moving, my heart didn’t feel it. For me, the writing falls a bit flat. Heather Morris writes in an instructional, factual way, using lots of pedestrian dialogue – perhaps a nod to her screenwriting background. I struggled to engage with the characters and immerse myself in their experience. There was no light and shade; no drama; no build-up of tension and suspense. I was looking for pictures and sound to give the story added dimension.
Nonetheless, this is an incredible story, meticulously compiled and faithfully honouring the recollections and reflections of a true Holocaust survivor. If that’s what you’re looking for, you may well enjoy this book.