Thursday, November 07, 2019

Review: Cilka's Journey by Heather Morris (print/audio)


Title: Cilka's Journey
Author: Heather Morris
Series: The Tattooist of Auschwitz, #2
Narrator: Louise Brealey
Published: October 2019, MacMillan Audio / St. Martin's Press
Length: 11 hours 3 minutes / 352 pages
Source: Audio - personal copy / Print - via Publisher

Summary:
From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, comes the new novel based on an incredible true story of love and resilience.

"She was the bravest person I ever met." —Lale Sokolov on Cilka Klein, The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, in 1942. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair, and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival.


After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to Siberia. But what choice did she have? And where did the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was sent to Auschwitz when still a child? 

In a Siberian prison camp, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she makes an impression on a woman doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing. Cilka begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Cilka finds endless resources within herself as she daily confronts death and faces terror. And when she nurses a man called Ivan, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.


My thoughts: I recently read and loved, as much as you can love, Heather Morris's book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, and one of the reasons I finally picked that one up was because I knew she had this book coming out. While this latest one can certainly be read as a stand-alone, I am glad that I read the prior book first as it gave me the background I needed to fully  understand where Cilka's story from.

This story gutted me but I'm glad that I read it as it was inspiring as much as it was heartbreaking. Cilka made it out of Auschwitz but was then charged as a collaborator and sent to the Siberian gullag for 15 years for sleeping with the enemy, not that she had any choice in the matter. It's unbelievable to think that some of the survivors of the concentration camps would find themselves imprisoned yet again for such ridiculous charges...they had no say in the matter as in Cilka's case.

This is a story of strength, endurance and survival. Heather Morris does a fantastic job showcasing just how abhorrent the conditions were for women at the work camps in Siberia, including the crimes committed against them. Yet through Cilka's story, there is a sense of hope and inspiration. As tough as the conditions were, she did her best to make the most of it, and constantly tried to help those around her.

This book is emotionally difficult to read at times, and I felt a bit more emotionally connected to it than I did to the previous book. But it is such an important book to read - these stories need to be told so that this never happens again!


Audio thoughts: I went back and forth between the print and audio version of this book. Louise Brealey does an amazing job with this audio - her voice is captivating and never once does she let her emotions get the best of her. I also loved the interview at the end of the audio between the author and the narrator

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2 comments

  1. A friend loaned me The Tatooist book but I haven't read it yet.

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  2. This sounds such an emotional story. All WWI and II stories are and each one is so different and so good. Thank you for the review.

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