A quick review of our two latest reads.
First up...‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ by Heather Morris
I am by no means a fast reader. I wish I was; I am forever jealous of those who seem to read book after book so quickly, but that’s not how I am built. However, I read this book in practically one sitting which is pretty unheard of for me. That seemed to be a similar experience for the other members of the book club who gave Lale’s story a unanimous thumbs up.
You know the setting, you know the history, you may even recognise some of the characters but there is something new that this text can offer every reader. And if you haven’t read a Holocaust novel before then this would be an accessible first choice, albeit in the style of an appetiser rather than a main course perhaps, enough to whet the appetite for something of greater depth.
Lale’s story of survival is remarkable and uplifting and Heather Morris manages to evoke the horrors of the time and capture Lale’s forceful personality. Ludwig/Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, was put to work permanently marking his fellow Jews upon arrival at the camp - one of the many steps taken to strip away all trace of humanity from them. Lale saw many journeys begin and end in the camp.
Be warned that this portrayal of events has come under fire from some Holocaust memorial groups for being inauthentic. It is certain that Heather added her own touches to the love story between Lale and Gita, a fellow prisoner who would later become his wife. That is why I would recommend you read this book along with another from that genre. Having said that, I really enjoyed this novel and would recommend it.
‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama- Penguin Random House has sold
almost 10 million copies of Michelle Obama’s memoir and it's on track to becoming one of the most successful memoirs ever published (Barack’s own memoir may be published later this year).
Michelle shares memories from her South Side Chicago upbringing, her years in education, her relationship with Barack and of course their time in the White House. She writes well and is supported by transcripts taken by White House aides during her time there. She is undoubtedly a determined and ambitious woman, I personally felt she could have owned those traits more and there was a consensus in our discussion that she appeared reserved in many respects. But she does speak candidly on many matters close to her heart, it may be that I am unaccustomed to reading autobiographies. How much are we entitled to after all?
I did enjoy reading her story and it gave me an insight into a world I had little prior knowledge of. Betty Caroli, a biographer of former first ladies said ‘Her book is certainly different from previous first ladies’ books, if you compare the past six or seven. Their pattern has generally been 70 % life in the White House and 30 % growing up. Hers is the opposite.’
Michelle always seemed destined to be someone of note, with or without Barack. She was friends with the daughter of Reverend Jessie Jackson, she excelled academically, and she rose to a position of importance in a top Chicago law firm. Not an easy task for a woman, harder still for a black woman.
Our choice for May is ‘Home Fire’ by Kamila Shamsie. John Boyne describes the novel, longlisted for the Man Booker, as being about ‘family loyalty, the manipulative power of sexuality and the place of Muslims in a world that regards them with suspicion.’.
Order your books in store and enjoy!