Book Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris

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A young man is taken from his home and sent to a ‘work camp’, his crime? Being Jewish. His advantage? His luck and optimism. Despite everything, Lale became the Tattooist of Auschwitz a secret he would hold for the majority of his life. Despite the horrors he saw and the job that he was forced to do, he happened to meet the love of his life, this is their story.

When I received an email asking if I would be interested in reading this I jumped at the chance. There are so many stories from the Holocaust that haven’t been told and millions more that never will, I was intrigued when I found out that it was prisoners that were to tattoo and mark other prisoners. This brought a whole new level of pain and suffering, marking their fellow prisoners, doing the Nazi’s dirty work for them.

What I didn’t expect when reading, was how much I would love Lale and that in all this, he was able to keep kindness and love in his heart. While his job was horrific and something he later felt he had to hide for fear of blame, he was able to find kindness and create a kind of family within the camp.

The story broke my heart over and over, but also gave me hope. Out of something so awful, the love between Lale and Gita was born and managed to withstand and survive. It’s something you need to read to believe because the tale is like something out of a movie.

Of course, I gave this 5 stars. It is beautifully written and tells an incredible story that needed to be told. There are rave reviews online and they are well deserved, I cannot recommend it enough.

Thank you to the Publisher for sending me this!

 

Book Review: The Storyteller – Jodi Picoult

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Imagine living a life where destroying others made you a good person.

Imagine living a life where the monsters you imagined suddenly became real. 

Imagine a revelation and story leaving you trying to make sense of the world

past and present.

This review was originally published in 2013, I was incredibly lucky that Jodi and her publishers became aware of it and posted it worldwide, I also got the opportunity to speak to Jodi and it was one of the best days of my life. So here is the piece of work that means the most to me.

Welcome to the world of The Storyteller, Jodi Picoult’s brand new and breathtaking novel. From the very beginning you are caught up in Picoult’s world, arguably more seamlessly than any other novel. Yet again she has created an entire novel from a simple moral question, someone who committed murder asks for your forgiveness, what would you do? Ok maybe it’s a little bit more complicated but this simple seed quickly branches out and has you deep in thought as you read. Sage Singer is a baker, she works at night alone as she cannot face the world seeing her scars, she later meets an elderly man who for the first time is someone she can talk to apart from her boss.  Imagine he tells you he needs your help, he wants you to help him die but before you do that you need to forgive him for helping to murder millions of people. Hooked yet? I certainly was.

A bit of context might help here. I waited for months and months for this novel to be released, imagine how excited I was when my boyfriend managed to get hold of a copy for me from the United States before it was released in the U.K. The novel combines some of my favourite things, Jodi Picoult novels, historical fiction, learning about the Holocaust and divided perspective, oh and a poke at Fifty Shades of Grey ( I did chuckle a lot at one simple joke). My own personal fascination with the Holocaust both the survivors and those lost started when I was looking at the period at the age of 11, I would trawl through accounts of the survivors both horrified and hooked at the same time. I think this is what makes The Storyteller even more fascinating, from picking up any of Picoult’s novel you will know that she does her research thoroughly but this is something else entirely. On the one hand you have the character of Minka who tells the story of a Holocaust survivor, an incredible tale. I had to remind myself that this was fictional, simply as the sheer amount of detail that has gone into Minka’s section was amazing if you were given this and not told it was written by an author you would genuinely believe it was a real survivor’s story. What is incredible also is how Picoult has woven Minka’s story ideas into the novel, at first I was a little thrown but they match the plot line perfectly and give really interesting ideas that I never would of thought of on my own and show the humanity in others as well.   To combat this however the reader is also given an equally shocking story beforehand, although this one made me sick to the stomach. SS officer Josef’s story was beyond belief, from the beginnings of Nazi Germany where young boys were pretty much brainwashed into being brutes (not that I think this is an excuse at all)  and then either went insane from their ‘duties’ or had to drink themselves stupid just to try and  forget  (see even you are feeling some mild sympathy, the brilliance of the author!), because at the end of the day no matter how monstrous and vile they were human…one point in time at least.

I cannot fault this novel in any way (as my readers will know if I don’t like something, I really don’t like something) and ending was incredible and so shocking not even a hardcore fan could work it out! The different perspectives are incredible too because it leave you having sympathy for characters you really feel you shouldn’t. I think that although Minka and Josef’s story will dominate the reader, Sage and another character (who I will not give away as I don’t want to ruin the surprise) present a modern perspective which is needed in this type of novel. The division Sage feels towards Josef as an old man and him in his youth tears the reader apart too, so does her turmoil over her grandmother, a Holocaust survivor. I cried though this novel, sometimes I had to put it down because it was so hard to process but within minutes it was back in my hands. Why do I like The Storyteller most of all though? Because even in one of the darkest parts of history and in the presence of the most revolting crimes against humans you still feel that there is light, that humanity still exists.

So to end, this novel made me want to live, it made me want to live for those who survived and those who didn’t.

***** five stars (although this doesn’t seem enough) released in the UK on the 26th March.

Chloe Metzger – a lifelong fan.

Book Review: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

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In the horror of war, it’s the innocence of children that breaks your heart.

I honestly felt the horror of what it is for a child to suffer through every single page of the book, I already knew the ending so I didn’t cry but oh my, this book is a beauty. The novel centres around nine year old Bruno, a normal young boy from Berlin with big dreams of becoming an explorer. All is going well for Bruno apart from his ‘Hopeless Case’ of a sister irritating him until one day he is told he will be moving away from his beloved Berlin. After moving to ‘Out-With’ Bruno is beside himself with no exploring to do, no friend to play with and the only mystery being the odd fence beyond the garden…who are the people beyond the fence. As time goes on there is a lot Bruno does not understand, even more so when he meets Shmuel, the boy on the other side of the fence. Why can’t they play together?

The magic of this novel is that we truly see the Holocaust through a German child’s eyes. Bruno does not understand the things that are going on around him. He does not understand what The Fury is or who the rude man who came to tea was that made them move to Out-With (you guessed it, Hitler himself) . Although at time as an adult reader I could pick out little holes in the plot such as wouldn’t Bruno be enrolled in Hitler youth seeing as his father is a high ranking officer? Wouldn’t he have been brainwasher to some extent into having a hatred for Jews? It is possible that he is simply too young to understand or even that his parents have tried in some ways to keep him out of political matters. On the other hand however we do see Bruno’s sister Gretel who is a few years older getting more and more interested in the war as she gets older, so I cannot hold it against Boyne at all.  Despite any flaws I have to admit that the friendship between the boys is rather remarkable and do hold that brutal childhood excitement and honesty. It is obvious that Shmuel is rather anxious and less likely to speak his mind than Bruno, however, there is still the energy of having a childhood friendship between them despite the terrible circumstances they face.

As a novel about the Holocaust I do feel that this is a great novel for children more than for adults. In the novel you do see the effects of war, the treatment of all those who suffered but in a way that doesn’t give children nightmares. I believe that this is the type of novel that should be introduced in schools and then read again in later life, as the novel will go on to touch the hearts of both adults and children alike.  I have read novels like this before and although this is fictional it is remarkable just how well Boyne has created this horrific world through the eyes of an innocent boy. What I also found within the novel was realism based on human relationships, there were political disagreements that caused the break-down of a family, lying and cruelty but amongst all this there was the relationship between Bruno and Shmuel. It was interesting that despite their circumstances they could still have a quite normal friendship, they dream together, makes plans and talk about the homes they miss so much. It is the friendship and bond that reinforces the message throughout the book that people are all the same. In the same way other modern classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Boyne has magnified the flaws of a specific time period and it’s ideals through the simplicity of a child’s point of view and it works remarkably well. Once you reach the ending (if you don’t know it already) you will understand the bittersweet heartbreak that this novel causes to all who read it.

Overall I give this novel 4 stars ****. I think that it was incredibly well written and gets into the mind-set of a child perfectly making you truly realise the horrors of war. I am only not giving this 5 stars as I felt that the introduction of Shmuel took a little too long in my opinion, that said however I do understand that the novel is for children and gives them the background needed. I would recommend this book to you all. Truly heart-breaking and beautiful.

The Boy in Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne

Review by Chloe Metzger