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

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Book Review

I wanted to try something a little different to make my blog more interesting! I’m not sure on which day but I will now be posting weekly book reviews, yaaaay! I used to have a whole blog dedicated to this but now I want to share them with you! For my first review, an incredible novel, The Book Thief.

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Liesel Memminger is only a child when she first meets death, but it will not be the last time 

The Book Thief contains a few things you need to know about. A young girl, an old couple, a Jewish fist fighter, Hitler and Death. Sounds simple, right? After finding herself in a new town with new parents, a doting foster father and a sharp tongued foster mother. But Liesel Memminger is haunted,  haunted by the ghost of her younger brother whom she watched die. Another thing you should know she is a thief, but the novel is about more than that.

The novel is a about a young girl that we get to watch grow and about a country that will never be the same after war. As Liesel, and her new parents Hanns and Rosa hide a young Jewish man they know they are risking their lives, but what comes out of it is so much more. The problem with novels as good as this is that you don’t want to ruin any part of it because you love it so much. I will say though, the novel is a long one but in a nice way. It’s the kind of book that you can take a break from but as soon as you turn another page you fall straight back into the story.

Another character I have to mention, because I know you will fall in love with him, is Lisle’s neighbour Rudy. A sweet boy who idolises black athlete Jesse Owens in the middle of Nazi Germany. As you can assume, this does not work in his favour. The relationship between him and Liesel is one of my favourite parts of the novel though, without him I doubt the Book Thief would have become who she was.

Although it’s a questionable concept, Death makes an incredible narrator and he was one of the best characters. Who would have thought death could be so kind, caring and thoughtful. Oh and lets not forget funny, there is great humour in the book even if it seems sad. I laughed more than I ever wanted to cry and it wasn’t just little laughs that would escape me, I shook at some points because I was laughing so hard.

At times the book made my heart hurt. I could see the scenes playing out in my head, I wanted to look away but I couldn’t. I wanted to reach out, but I wasn’t really there. What Zusak has done with his magical description should not be taken lightly. I have not read novel like this, that is so vivid you feel like you can reach out to it, in a very long time. I wanted to laugh, I wanted to cry and I wanted to make sure nothing like this could ever happen again. It’s incredible that even though this is fiction, it feels as if it could be real and that is the magic of a good story teller, they made you believe the story is as real as any history book.The novel made me cry, and I’m grateful. It is a stunning piece of literature that I want to read again and again.

I can’t give this book anything less than five stars *****, something I don’t give lightly. I remember not reading this book years ago when I had the chance and I wish someone had shaken me! Zusak is an incredible writer, so much so that if he never wrote again this book would be enough. If you haven’t read it, you should need to, it is beautiful.

Review by Chloe Metzger

לא נשכח אותם – We Will not forget them

Today marks the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a day which many of its inhabitants never thought would come. To us now it is hard to imagine what happened, in fact to anyone with a heart it is hard to comprehend how human beings could be treated so badly.

To listen to the survivors, to see where they were held sends a shiver through my sign. I’ve never visited the camps, although one day I hope to visit, to pay my respects to the people. Whole families destroyed, lost and people murdered for just their own beliefs.

It is important we learn from this, we listen and never forget. This kind of terrible hatred has been seen in France recently and must not continue, if we can’t stand together then what happens next?

I could have written this factually but I wanted the emotion, I wanted the feels of passion that I have for these people, for the Jewish community. We didn’t live through this and slowly the survivors are dying after sharing with us the terrible sights they lived through, shared their pain. We owe it to those who were brave enough to talk, to remember as much as we can and try to prevent such terror happening again.

I pay my respects to those lost and thank those who survived.

We will not forget you.