Book Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

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.

 

 

My thoughts

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.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Facebook | Website

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 320
Publisher: Zaffre

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

What’s it about? 

A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.

 

 

 

My thoughts

Disclaimer: This has been my favourite book since I was forced to read it aged 15 in my English class.  It is only 1 of 2 books that I’ve ever re-read and will only ever be perfect to me!

Having said that, it’s been quite a few years since I last read it, probably at least ten, and I was a little apprehensive that now, at 44, my experience of the book would be different and I wouldn’t enjoy it as much or I’d have to demote it from favourite book status, but phew, I still loved it and it just goes to show it’s a book for all ages and still, unfortunately, just as relevant now.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” 

For those of you that don’t know the book, it’s told from the point of view of Scout, a nine-year-old girl, and covers many subjects including racism, injustice, rape, social class and abuse so expect the language to be of its time and not necessarily an easy read – to be fair it probably reads like a social commentary of the time.  On a much smaller scale it reminds me of bygone innocent childhood summers, going out after breakfast, home for tea – different times.

Atticus is one of the best, fairest and most generous characters ever written and my admiration for him is probably what piqued my interest in law.  Legal dramas and thrillers have always been my go to book, tv and movie choice ever since.

“We’re paying the highest tribute you can pay a man. We trust him to do right. It’s that simple.”

It surprises me after all this time, and so many reads, that I still took something new from this book and that was the end.  I’d not noticed before how ambiguous I found the ending – what really did happen between Jem and Bob Ewell in the woods!

Love it – a modern classic that everyone should read at least once.

“I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.” 

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Small print for info
Source: Purchased…years & years ago 🙂
No of pages: 320
Publisher: Arrow

My thoughts on A Treachery of Spies by Manda Scott #audible #bookreview

What’s it about?

An elderly woman of striking beauty is found murdered in Orleans, France. Her identity has been cleverly erased, but the method of her death is very specific: she has been killed in the manner of traitors to the Resistance in World War Two. 

Tracking down her murderer leads police inspector Inès Picaut back to 1940s France, where the men and women of the Resistance were engaged in a desperate fight for survival against the Nazi invaders. 

To find answers in the present, Picaut must discover what really happened in the past, untangling a web of treachery and intrigue that stretches back to the murder victim’s youth: a time when unholy alliances were forged between occupiers and occupied, deals were done and promises broken. The past has been buried for decades, but, as Picaut discovers, there are those in the present whose futures depend on it staying that way – and who will kill to keep their secrets safe…. 

My thoughts

After hearing Manda Scott on Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year podcast I downloaded this book straight away using a free Audible credit.

At nearly 19 hours long it is a huge investment of time and despite the many weeks it took me to listen to it, the vast amount of characters and dual time line it is a fascinating listen!

When Sophie Destivelle is murdered in modern day France her death is linked back to her time as a WWII Special Operations Executive.  The time we spend back in WW2 is incredibly gripping and tense but not without, of course, the horror.  There are some vicious scenes but it is as you’d expect from a spy novel of this time.  Sophie’s character is awesome; she’s kick-ass and hardcore which I really liked!

I’m not gonna lie I couldn’t put the time into this Audible book as much as I’d have liked which is why it’s taken me around 6 weeks to complete it.  There are also so many characters in the present day and the past that trying to remember who they were and how they played a part in the past I found difficult.  This was entirely down to me and my listening habits.  As much as I do enjoy an Audible book and I liked the narrators in this, I think I would have had a much better experience had I read a physical copy.  I found I was trying to deciphering the names and I would have preferred to see them written down.

Since finishing I’ve since discovered this is the second in a series but wholeheartedly recommend as a standalone as it has such a superb plot.  In all honesty, it’s a book that I’d actually like to re-read.  I think I missed quite a bit and didn’t follow everything and recollect so didn’t really stand a chance of piecing it together.  This is a real treat for fans of historical fiction especially if you’re interested in roles women played as SOEs.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: Purchased – Audible
No of pages: 480
Publisher: Bantum Press

What are your thoughts on audio books?

Book Review: The Alienist by Caleb Carr

The blurb

Some things never change.

New York City, 1896. Hypocrisy in high places is rife, police corruption commonplace, and a brutal killer is terrorising young male prostitutes. Unfortunately for Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, the psychological profiling of murderers is a practice still in its infancy, struggling to make headway against the prejudices of those who prefer the mentally ill – and the ‘alienists’ who treat them – to be out of sight as well as out of mind. But as the body count rises, Roosevelt swallows his doubts and turns to the eminent alienist Dr Laszlo Kreizler to put a stop to the bloody murders – giving Kreizler a chance to take him further into the dark heart of criminality, and one step closer to death.

 

 

My thoughts

Here’s another book that I bought on a 99p Kindle deal and really had my money’s worth!

Although the beginning is very heavy on the psycho babble, which did put me off somewhat, this is like the mother of all psychological thrillers!  It’s very dark and disturbing and certainly not for the faint-hearted as they’re graphic images of child murders which will not be to everyone’s taste.  Once I got past all the psychiatry stuff it’s a gripping and race against time murder mystery!

I loved the setting, the period in which it was set and Sara’s character and her dogged determination to the first woman working in the New York police department.

If you need any more convincing to read (or watch) this, a modern day equivalent would be The Mentalist but soooo much darker!

Since reading the book I have watched the Netflix adaptation which is very good too and apart from the ending stays very true to the book, loved the cast selection!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 544
Publisher: Sphere

Book Review: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

The blurb

Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies . . .

Six interlocking lives – one amazing adventure. In a narrative that circles the globe and reaches from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, Cloud Atlas erases the boundaries of time, genre and language to offer an enthralling vision of humanity’s will to power, and where it will lead us.

My thoughts

This book had been on my TBR for years, not quite sure how many, but more than 4! I’d been chatting about it with my brother so I thought I should just pick it up and give it a go.  I’d heard that it was a challenging read so I must admit I was intimidated it which is probably why I’d put it off for so long.

Well it took me just under 2 weeks to read.  This was due to the time I had available and not the book, but I really don’t why I felt so intimidated.  It wasn’t what I expected and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought it would.  I’ve summarised the stories included below and my thoughts on them:

The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing – I found this story to be the most challenging which wasn’t due to the subject matter because that was very good but because of its language, which as it’s the first story in the book, can seem rather off-putting.

Letters from Zedelghem – bit of a 1930s humourous romp told as a series of letters.  I love letter-writing in books!

Half-Lives – The First Luisa Rey Mystery – my favourite of all the stories.  This I estimated to be set mid-late 1970s and was a tense murder mystery conspiracy thriller.  Would have loved a whole book based on this short story.

The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish – reads like a Monty Python sketch, really rather amusing and laugh-out-loud!

An Orison of Somni-451 – futuristic, sci-fi.  I pictured i-Robot on trial.

Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin After – vicious and tribal but hopeful.  Also has some odd language which needs deciphering!

These stories then develop in the next round as we make our way back to Adam Ewing.  Now, as I said, I enjoyed this book very much and thought it has great entertainment value but I can appreciate how other readers might think well what’s the point of it, yes each of the 6 have a link to the others/previous in some way but what else are we to take from this book – empathy, acceptance, what it is to be human or just a great piece of writing with an incredible amount of sticky notes to keep track! 😉

With these short stories, it really is a cross-genre book and one therefore sparks various emotions for the characters within.  If you haven’t read it and have been put off by what you’ve heard, give it a try, it really is worth the read!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 529
Publisher: Sceptre

Example of language in Sloosha!