I’ve been meaning to read this book since I first spotted it on the shelf in Waterstones, just not enough to actually buy it!
In the end I had two offers to lend me the book within 2 days of each other. One from a friend who I know enjoys reading and the other, unexpectedly, from the guy who was washing my hair at the hairdressers. It was a surprise to him that he’d enjoyed reading the book and he was telling everyone about it.
I read it in just over a day. It’s an easy to follow story about a Slovakian Jewish man who is deported to Auschwitz and, by chance, ends up in a job that gives him a privileged position that enables him to survive.
My problem with this book is twofold.
Firstly, it feels like a very sanitised version of Lale’s story. I can understand why; there is the distance of time between the events and Lale relating them to Morris. I can also understand that having achieved that distance and survived it would have been painful to reopen some of the suppressed reality of living in a concentration camp.
Secondly, and linked to my first concern, it worries me that if this is the only book people have read about life in a concentration camp they will not understand just how horrendous it was for the majority of the people who lived and died there. The book makes it sound relatively easy for people to get extra rations, easier jobs and out of bad work details. It feels almost like an insult to the millions who were worked to death or murdered in not just Auschwitz but all concentration camps.
Would I recommend this book? Possibly, but only if followed up by reading Primo Levi’s If This Is A Man.