The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris [in Booklist]
“Choosing to live is an act of defiance, a form of heroism,” Lale assures his lover Gita. The pair are both Slovakian Jews, trapped in the hell of Auschwitz-Birkenau. As the death camp’s Tätowierer – the tattooist who scars prisoners with everlasting numbers – Lale has privileged access to extra rations, small favors that keep him alive, that when he can, he uses to help others to endure.
Based on interviews with real-life Holocaust survivor Ludwig Sokolov before his 2006 death, Morris’ historical fiction debut has reached international bestseller status – and gained notoriety – since its initial 2018 Australian publication. The first-time novelist’s occasionally wooden sentences (“Lale is seeing red. He is out of control”) find enhanced presentation from soft, ever-so-slightly scratchy-voiced Richard Armitage’s affecting embodiment.
Careful listeners might notice the intermittent production glitch – for example, a sentence unevenly spliced in after the initial read. Despite the casual stumbles, Armitage remains ever-convincing, assuming Lale’s determination to keep his love story alive, committing his acts of defiance and complicity both in order to withstand the heinous inhumanity and to believe a future with Gita would be possible.