*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Tattooist of Auschwitz, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is one of the most popular books of recent years. It tells the true story of Lale Sokolov, who became the tattooist of Auschwitz during his many years at the concentration camp, tattooing numbers on incoming prisoners. One day, Lale tattoos the arm of a beautiful girl and, despite the circumstances, it is love at first sight. The book chronicles the love affair of Lale and Gita, their time at Auschwitz, and their struggle for survival.
The novel is the debut of Heather Morris, who recently released a sequel titled Cilka’s Journey. If you’ve read the novel, you recognize the name from one of the characters.
Morris originally wrote the novel as a screenplay after meeting Lale Sokolov and learning his story. For years she tried to get film interest. When that faltered, she rewrote the story in novel form.
Unfortunately, to me, the novel read like a screenplay that had been lightly filled in with narrative. The story itself is fascinating and, while it could have been one of the best novels I’ve ever read based on the story alone, it fell flat to me due to the sparse writing. I often felt like I was being told, “Lale did this or that,” rather than experiencing what happened through Lale’s narrative.
The good news is that you may not read it in the same way I did. Many readers have absolutely fallen in love with the novel. There are over 25,000 Amazon reviews alone, which is unheard of. And, while I felt like the writing wasn’t what I normally expect from a novel, I did enjoy learning Lale’s story.
That said, I think you should read The Tattooist of Auschwitz and decide for yourself. It will lend to a very lively book club discussion, I’m sure. On that note, I’ve provided book club questions and a delicious recipe for The Tattooist of Auschwitz, so if you are looking for food ideas and more, keep reading!
Here’s a brief summary of The Tattooist of Auschwitz:
When Lale’s Jewish family is forced to choose a son to serve the Germans in WWII, Lale volunteers to go. Little does he know that he will find himself at Auschwitz, the most harrowing Nazi concentration camp. When the Germans realize Lale knows several languages, they assign him to the gates of Auschwitz tattooing the newly arrived prisoners. One day, the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen arrives and, as he marks her forever, she steals his heart. What follows is a tale of forbidden love, a tale of the struggle to survive against the odds, a tale of human kindness and triumph even in the darkness of Auschwitz.
For The Tattooist of Auschwitz recipe:
Recipes for books about World War II are often a challenge since most countries faced rations, if not starvation. (See my struggle to find a recipe for The Nightingale here). Since this novel was set at Auschwitz, which means even worse conditions, I knew it would be a struggle to find a recipe.
Luckily, part of the story revolves around Lale’s ability to trade for goods with Victor and his son, two citizens working at Auschwitz. Throughout the story Lale trades gems for sausages and chocolate.
After some researching, I stumbled upon a recipe for chocolate sausage (or salami), which is a European dessert made popular in the early 20th century. While reading about it, I found this particular article about the Jews in Europe and chocolate sausage, which you can read here. I tried a version of the recipe in this article, but it didn’t turn out well for me.
Instead, I chose to use Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe posted on Food Network. I substituted hazelnuts for almonds, but I think the extra crunch of almonds would also be nice. This was a delicious and fairly easy recipe. The most difficult part is getting the chocolate into the sausage shape.
You will need to slice the sausage with a perforated knife. As time passes the likelihood that the sausage will crumble increase as it begins to dry out, so try to serve the day of making or the next day at the latest. I also thought it tasted best slightly cold.
If chocolate sausage doesn’t sound like a match for your group, here are a few other food suggestions from The Tattooist of Auschwitz:
- Chapter 6- Lale and Victor strike a deal for the sausages.
- Chapter 8 -Lale shares a chocolate with Gita, rubbing it over her mouth.
- Chapter 25- The polish woman who takes Gita and her friends in serves them hot soup.
- Chapter 27- Lamb in a thick, creamy sauce and al dente carrots with butter when the Russians take Lale in to work with them.
- Chapter 27- A sandwich and hot coffee from the train station master who realizes Lale’s plight and helps.
I encourage you to try chocolate sausage! It was a really delicious treat and a unique experience that I think your book club will love. So, if you are looking for food suggestions for The Tattooist of Auschwitz I think your book club will be happy to try Chocolate Sausage!
- ½ cup chopped almonds or hazelnuts
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- Two 5-inch long biscotti cookies
- 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter cubed
- 12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate chips
- ¼ cup brewed coffee
- 1 teaspoon of orange zest
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Chop the nuts if needed and crush the biscotti into coarse pieces (about the size of the nuts).
- On a lined baking sheet, spread the biscotti and nuts into a single layer.
- Bake the biscotti and nuts for 6-8 minutes until the nuts are toasted. Remove and cool.
- Using a double boiler, heat the chocolate chips and the butter over low heat until the chocolate melts and a smooth, silky mixture is achieved.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the coffee until well incorporated.
- Lightly fold in the toasted nuts and biscotti and the orange zest, careful not to crush the biscotti, but making sure everything is well coated.
- Cover and refrigerate for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until the chocolate is moldable but not too firm.
- Remove from the refrigerator and place half of the mixture onto an 18-inch-long piece of plastic wrap. Using your hands or a spatula, form the mixture into a log shape about the size of a sausage. Roll up the chocolate log in the plastic wrap and twist the ends. Once wrapped, roll on the counter to round the log if needed. Repeat with the second half.
- Refrigerate both logs for at least 1 hour, until firm. They should feel firm enough to slice.
- Place the powdered sugar in a plate. Remove the logs from the plastic wrap and roll in the powdered sugar until coated.
- Slice with a serrated knife into ½ inch pieces and serve cold.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- Were you surprised to learn that some prisoners of Auschwitz, like Lale, volunteered to go?
- Did the novel change your perception of Auschwitz? In what way? Did you feel that the novel romanticized the situation?
- Morris originally wrote what would become the novel as a script (or screenplay). What did you think of the writing style of the novel? What would you have liked to know about Lale and Gita that was not included?
- Despite seeing hundreds of faces a day, Lale is immediately drawn to Gita. Do you believe in love at first sight? Why do you think Lale was drawn to Gita despite her shaved head and drab clothes?
- Were you surprised to learn that the woman pilfered the piles of belongings? What did you think about that?
- Lale receives help from Victor and Yuri in exchange for gems. Why do you think Lale risks his life for sausage and chocolate? Do you think it was a fair trade?
- Discuss Lale and Gita’s escapes. Once they get past the first obstacles, they both found help to get back. Why do you think Lale and Gita we’re both brave enough to take that first step despite the possible consequences?
- Discuss what it would have felt like to be known as a number. In what ways would dehumanizing make such an experience worse, in what ways, if any, would it make it better? Have you ever encountered a similar situation?
- At the end of the book, Lale and Gita’s son discusses some of the lasting repercussions of Auschwitz. Have you ever known anyone who lived in a concentration camp? What were some of the after effects they endured?
- What are some of your favorite WWII novels? How did this one rank? Why do you think so many readers have connected to Lale and Gita’s story?
Have you read The Tattooist of Auschwitz? What did you think? Did it satisfy you or were you left wishing for more? What are some similar books you’ve read?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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