“Lale tries not to look up.”

The Tattoist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

This is a Bookclub book, so one that I normally would not have picked to read for myself. I did enjoy it much more than I thought I would. Unfortunately we were not able to actually discuss the book once we met up as 3 out of the 6 of us hadn’t actually read the book.

Obviously the Holocaust is not something that makes for an “enjoyable” read, but I could not put this book down. The narrator drew me in, and it was a straight forward account of what happened to a young Jewish man who is sent to Auschwitz during WWII and, through twists of fortune, became the Tattooist–a relatively “respected” position at the camps.

What I like best: it describes and outlines very depressing situations without over dramaticising them. I found that the account of this man was that much more real to me because of how this story was told.

What I like least: Nothing. There is nothing I would change about this book.

While the atrocities of the Holocaust was something that I was already exposed to through school and general cultural references, I don’t think I ever actually read a first hand account of someone who’s lived through it. Reading this man’s words and all that he thought of what was going on around him–it taught me so much about human resilience, empathy, and kindness.

My favourite part: when the prisoners moo’ed on their first night in their block. They were being treated like animals and somehow found the humour in that. Either that or there was simply no other reaction they could have.

I would, and have, recommend this book to anyone, whether they were a serious reader or not. I think 60 years is a long enough time for people to have forgotten what can happen when one man wields absolute power over a nation.

“Competence can be a curse.”

Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee. 

This is the first book I finished in 2019. It’s also the first book review I am doing in this reworked version of an old website.

When I’m looking for a next book to read, I usually read the very first line and I go off of my first instinct. If the first line grabs me, I will read that book and finish it, regardless of how much it sucks afterwards.

Free Food did not suck. It was a delight to read.

I found the book at Tea House Books in Denmark, Western Australia during our most recent Christmas visit home. The bookstore itself has gone through a couple of different owners since the very first time I visited in 2010. I always liked browsing through small town bookshops because, unlike big city bookshops, they usually only have one copy of a book on display. It gives me the feeling that I’m getting a “one of a kind” book, even though that can’t possibly be the case.

Free Food  drew me in because the background of the main character was relatable to me. The MC, Casey, was a second generation immigrant in New York whose Korean parents were hard-working but strict. Overall the story was believable and interesting. I wanted to read the book to the end mainly because I wanted to find out what became of Casey.

The ending was not anything glorious, but satisfactory. The various storylines introduced with the cast of characters were all wrapped up pretty well, so there were no disappointing loose ends.

Free Food was set in New York City in the 1980’s and 1990’s. It was interesting to read about New York banker culture and how immigrant life melded with that.

Apart from Casey, there was a large cast of characters involved. The point of view switched between various characters so each of them were sympathetic in their own way; I got to really understand a character’s motivations and empathize, even if the character’s actions were not likable.

If I had to describe the novel in one sentence: It is a story about a girl’s struggle with self-identity and loving herself in a setting where she was taught conflicting ideas at home and out in the world.

The book was written in a way that read smoothly. The language and dialogue were elegant and that set the tone of the story.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book to any serious readers as it’s one of those books that is fun and interesting to read, but not life-changing. For me it would be a casual beach novel and not something I would read again a second time, even though I did enjoy it the first time round.