An August smattering of book reviews

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

book cover for Tattooist of Auschwitz shows Lale and Gita from the back staring at the Auschwitz skyline.Harper, 2018 
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Richard Armitage

From the Book Description on Goodreads: 

“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.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

What I Thought

I am grateful I read this in audiobook form. This is a tough story, and I was comforted by the number of times Richard Armitage clearly also had to stop reading and restart. (Perhaps he too needed to go curl up and cry?) His at times not so steady voice made me feel like I wasn’t encountering the horror alone.

Underlying this story there is a web of people who care for one another, pulling each other (and me) through the darkest times. It is hard to call this a lovely book due to the uncompromising way it explores what it takes to survive something like Auschwitz, but I am thankful to have had the chance to witness it.

Who Would Enjoy This Book

  • People interested in the Holocaust 

Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher #11) by Lee Child

Delacourt, 2007  
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Dick Hill

From the Book Description: 

“From a helicopter high above the empty California desert, a man is sent free-falling into the night…. In Chicago, a woman learns that an elite team of ex–army investigators is being hunted down one by one…. And on the streets of Portland, Jack Reacher—soldier, cop, hero—is pulled out of his wandering life by a code that few other people could understand. From the first shocking scenes in Lee Child’s explosive new novel, Jack Reacher is plunged like a knife into the heart of a conspiracy that is killing old friends…and is on its way to something even worse.

A decade postmilitary, Reacher has an ATM card and the clothes on his back—no phone, no ties, and no address. But now a woman from his old unit has done the impossible. From Chicago, Frances Neagley finds Reacher, using a signal only the eight members of their elite team of army investigators would know. She tells him a terrifying story—about the brutal death of a man they both served with. Soon Reacher is reuniting with the survivors of his old team, scrambling to raise the living, bury the dead, and connect the dots in a mystery that is growing darker by the day. The deeper they dig, the more they don’ t know: about two other comrades who have suddenly gone missing—and a trail that leads into the neon of Vegas and the darkness of international terrorism.

For now, Reacher can only react. To every sound. Every suspicion. Every scent and every moment. Then Reacher will trust the people he once trusted with his life—and take this thing all the way to the end. Because in a world of bad luck and trouble, when someone targets Jack Reacher and his team, they’d better be ready for what comes right back at them…

What I Thought

Reacher novels are wonderfully consistent. Reacher is always the toughest guy in the room, always accomplishes his goal, is almost always the best tactician in the situation, never carries more than a toothbrush, always ditches his shirt when he buys the next one, never has a steady job, always remains loyal to his personal code. 

In this one, Reacher’s squad of investigators from his army days run into a spot of trouble out west. Several of them are killed before Reacher gets wind of it, and Reacher and the remaining members of his old team work together to find out what’s going on and how a set of podunk security folks could have gotten the better of their former teammates. 

It turns out to be much bigger than it first appears, of course, because that’s also part of the formula. I realize that the constant references to a formula I make it sound like I don’t really enjoy these books. I do, but only when I’m looking for a specific type of entertainment. 

Like the Pendergast series, the characterization & problem sets in these novels are so very consistent, I know exactly what I’ll be getting when I crack one open. There is a definite comfort to that. After reading the Tattooist of Auschwitz, I needed a book with a predictably sized emotional payload. 

Who Would Enjoy This Book

  • Readers who enjoy mystery/thrillers with ex-military protagonists


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