When Auschwitz is finally liberated, 18 year old Cilka does not receive freedom like many other prisoners. Instead, she is charged by the Soviet Union to 15 years of hard labor in the Russian Gulag in Siberia for accusation of helping the Nazis. This story follows Cilka as she does what she must to survive yet another prison camp with the friends she makes along the way.
This is a companion novel to Heather Morris’s first novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, which I read in February 2019. I was really impacted by that book, so I think my expectations were a little too high for this one.
Let me start with the writing. While reading reviews of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, I saw many people complaining about Morris’s writing style, saying that it was very bland. I didn’t really know what they meant until I read this one. Morris does a lot of “telling,” not “showing.” I remember there were sentences like “Cilka feels upset.” or “Cilka experiences longing.” As the novel went on, I did get adjusted to it, but I still feel like the writing style didn’t mesh with me.
As for the book itself, there wasn’t that much going on, and it was fairly slow. I guess that most historical fiction novels are like this, but it was just so different from Tattooist of Auschwitz, which was action packed and had me on my toes the whole time. I didn’t really feel motivated to read until the last 40% or so, and by the end I was ready to put it down. It didn’t stick out to me like other historical fiction books have, such as The Nightingale or Between Shades of Grey.
Lastly, after the book was over I did look into how much of the story was true, since the author says it was based off a real person named Cilka who did survive both Aushwitz and the Russian Gulag. I cam across and article of an interview with Cilka’s stepson, who was upset that the women in the novel is nothing like his mother and asked Heather Morris to stop claiming it was based on a true story. I haven’t seen Heather Morris’s response, but I know the book is still being marketed as such.
If you’ve read this book, how did you feel about it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!