Context | As someone who did not enjoy learning about history at school, I find myself surprisingly intrigued by historical fiction books. When I saw “The Tattooist at Auschwitz” on the shelves of Nautilus bookstore, I bought it immediately and read it only few days after. I initially found out about the book from YY from Books and Bubble Tea.
In a nutshell | The book tells the story of Lale Sokolov, a Jew from Slovakia who was transported in April 1942 to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. There he was assigned the task of tattooing the serial numbers on the new prisoners – he was the Tätowierer. In this horrific context, a love story blossoms when Lale meets Gita while tattooing a new group of female prisoners.
Overall impression | I read the book in one sitting (yep, the whole book at once), during one Sunday afternoon. Raising a wide variety of emotions, from anger to empathy and hope, “The Tattooist at Auschwitz” is definitely a page turner.
Pace | I perceived the story to be faster-paced than I expected. This was for sure one of the reasons I read it so quickly! However, I felt the ending of the story was too rushed and unrealistic, which lowered my enthusiasm for the book.
Fiction vs. Reality | According to the writer, the story is based on a real story and it was thoroughly fact-checked. However, the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center stated that “the book contains numerous errors and information inconsistent with the facts, [..] on which the overall inauthentic picture of the camp reality is built” (link to the fact-checking report). While I understand the book is a fiction book and some aspects of the story can be exaggerated or even invented, I find it troublesome that basic facts (such as Gita’s serial number) seem to be incorrect.
Historical fiction | The topic of historical accuracy made me think about the discussion regarding how history is “used” when writing books. Personally, I sometimes tend to take for granted what I read in historical fiction stories, forgetting that it’s still a FICTION book … In this respect, what are the boundaries a writer should not cross in a historical fiction book? Should these books have an explanatory note about what is real and what is fiction in the story? Rita wrote an interesting discussion post about this, I recommend reading it if you’re into the historical fiction topic.
Wrap-up | “The Tattooist at Auschwitz” is a touching romance story about two ordinary people that meet in extraordinary circumstances. If historical fiction is your cup of tea, then you’ll probably enjoy reading this emotional story. However, keep in mind to take the historical details of the story with a grain of salt!
‘Till next time … happy reading!