Why You Should Not Read Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris Book Cover

Before you read The Tattooist of Auschwitz, it is very, very important to note that this is historical fiction. Though Heather Morris often alludes that this is an accurate account of life in Auschwitz, it has been proven to be highly inaccurate. If you want to learn more about what Auschwitz was actually like, check out the Auschwitz Museum’s website. If you want some recommended and accurate books, check out this list from the Memorial center and also Night by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Elie Wiesel.

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

The Auschwitz Memorial called this book “dangerous and disrespectful to history”. They have fact checked the story (you can see an article about that here) and found innumerable errors. Morris was lazy in her research (for example using modern train maps to describe Lale’s journey, which were not accurate in during WW2) – a trait that is highly dangerous when she’s touting this book as biographical and documentarian in nature. She went as far as to invent a bombing plot in which women stored gunpowder under their nails and used it to blow up a crematorium that simply never happened. Adding these kinds of ‘narrative flair” or “artistic license” are irresponsible and paint a wildly incorrect portrait of life in a concentration camp. To me, this is not the kind of story you add Michael Bay-esque explosions to. Respect history.

While Heather Morris did interview Lale (whose nickname wasn’t actually Lale, it was Lali), she is not a historian and it shows. One very basic offense was the fact that she didn’t even get Gita’s number correct. Another detail was Lale getting a hold of penicillin – it was not widely available at this time. She also made up a scene where soldiers poisoned people in a bus – which never actually happened. Most abhorrently, she alleges (and frames an entire sequel around) Cilka being a sex slave to a high ranking SS officer – the Auschwitz Memorial has emphatically refuted this. It’s pretty vile to allege things like this with no proof.

Honestly, skip reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz. It’s factually wrong, and the author is unrepentant in her failings to tell an accurate story. To me, this book (and the sequel) are thinly veiled attempts at profiting off of the shock value of one of the most heinous pieces of world history. If Heather Morris cared as much as she claimed to, she would have properly researched the book before releasing it. 1/5

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Mini Book Review: Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid

evidence of the affair by taylor jenkins reid book cover

evidence of the affair by taylor jenkins reid book coverDear stranger…

A desperate young woman in Southern California sits down to write a letter to a man she’s never met—a choice that will forever change both their lives.

My heart goes out to you, David. Even though I do not know you…

The correspondence between Carrie Allsop and David Mayer reveals, piece by piece, the painful details of a devastating affair between their spouses. With each commiserating scratch of the pen, they confess their fears and bare their souls. They share the bewilderment over how things went so wrong and come to wonder where to go from here.

Told entirely through the letters of two comforting strangers and those of two illicit lovers, Evidence of the Affair explores the complex nature of the heart. And ultimately, for one woman, how liberating it can be when it’s broken.

 

My review

Told entirely in the form of letters, Evidence of the Affair is an unconventional short story by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Clocking in at only 86 pages, this is an easy binge-in-one-sitting kind of story – not that it’s easy to put this book down anyways with how quickly it gets to the action. Reading the letters between the two scorned spouses felt like almost uncomfortably personal at times, giving the reader the feeling that they’re reading a diary of a loved one. You know you shouldn’t read it, but how can you stop?

Through the letters, it’s easy to get a good idea of who each of the characters are – and also see them change as the story moves forward. Everyone in this book had secrets, and by the end they were a tangled mass of lies and betrayal. It kind of reads like a simplified version of a soap opera, and I loved it. Also, I loved the low-key mention of Daisy Jones – a nice call out for fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s other works. While this wasn’t my favorite of Reid’s work, it was still a fun romp – a great way to spend a weekend afternoon. 4/5

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Were Recommended to Me

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme by The Artsy Reader. This week’s topic is Books I Read Because Someone Recommended Them to Me. Honestly, most of my friends aren’t readers, so I don’t really get a lot of recommendations outside of the book blogging world. Fortunately, I get plenty from bloggers who I respect – so here are a few that were recommended to me and that I enjoyed.

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