The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Written by Heather Morris
Review by Julia Stoneham

The Holocaust will surely be an endless source of inspiration for creative artists of all disciplines. We take for granted the poignancy of the plethora of subjects, narratives, images and sounds in the various works of art, from paintings, sculptures, ballets and musical compositions to poetry, and prose which owe to it their origins.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz more than justifies its place among a rich crop of novels, from Anne Frank’s story to the present day, the best of which have emerged from the creative artist’s mind, provoking strong and irresistible reactions to the original, sometimes almost unbearable histories of the characters involved. The tattooist has the job of tattooing serial numbers upon newly-arrived prisoners and uses the tiny privileges that this gives him to help other prisoners as much as he can.

The writing style of this novel is intriguing. It delivers a concise immediacy that suggests confident, uncluttered movement as the narrative proceeds, gathering momentum and delivering its powerful storyline. No place here for maudlin sentimentality or over indulgence. The telling is crisp, the dialogue and the characters convincing.

The territory may be familiar, but the viewpoint is refreshingly original. Above all, it is an engrossing read.