This week’s book… phew, so gripping. I listened to this one on audio and I was hooked from the very start. I made it all the way to the end and was wiping away a tear when I learned that it’s actually based on a true story. Which naturally made it all the better.
It’s The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, a New Zealand novelist, and reading some reviews after the fact, I see that they are (sort of) mixed. The New York Times gave a good review and the book has been well-received by general audiences — myself included. However, the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center notes a few factual discrepancies, such as the numbers that would have been tattooed on the wrists (the AMRC states the numbers that were listed in the book were too high) and the use of penicillin to treat an illness. These things are important from a historical perspective, certainly, but it’s hard to argue that they skew the overall intent of the story itself.
I suppose this may not be a terribly literary thing for me to say! I’m a writer after all and accuracy is important. I guess what I’m saying is that I enjoyed the story and I’m not sure it matters all that much if penicillin was or was not widely available until after the war. A woman was sick once, in 1943 or 1944, in a horrific prison called Auschwitz, and her love found a way to get her some medicine that may or may not have been penicillin. As one reviewer put it, Morris “welds the historical events – and real people – on to a fictional frame.”
Give it a read and let me know what you think. Or if you’ve already read it, do you think those small details that Morris may have gotten wrong matter all that much? What’s your take on “biographical fiction”?
UPDATE: After reading more reviews I’ve found a thread of consensus, which is that the audio version of the book is superior to the read version. I can’t weigh in except to say that I listened to the book (narrated by Richard Armitage) and this may have skewed my opinion of it…
Click here to see last week’s book