When I read The Tattooist of Auschwitz, I found myself, like many others, drawn to one of the characters we come across: Cilka Klein. She is a beautiful young prisoner who catches the eye of the camp’s SS-Obersturmführer and is forced into a sexual relationship with him in order to survive. So when I heard that Heather Morris had written a follow-up book all about this fascinating woman, Cilka’s Journey, I was so pleased that we would finally be able to hear the story of the character who had captured so many readers’ hearts.
Intrigued to hear what happened to Cilka, I was surprised to find that the answer leads us to Russia, and the Vorkuta gulag. Tragically, after all she endured in Birkenau, on her release Cilka was imprisoned by the Russians as a Nazi collaborator. I knew very little about the experiences of prisoners of these camps, so it was an eye-opening and educational read. I liked that although this novel follows The Tattooist of Auschwitz in time, and we do see glimpses of its central characters Lale and Gita, it is Cilka who is firmly at the heart of this particular story. It isn’t really a sequel to Morris’s earlier novel – it is as the title says, Cilka’s journey.
Morris does a good job of weaving fact and fiction together to imagine Cilka’s story. Unlike with The Tattooist of Auschwitz where Morris had the opportunity to hear Lale’s story from him first hand, for Cilka’s story Morris had to piece small fragments of history together into a readable and compelling story. I had expected the novel to focus more on the time Cilka endured at Auschwitz, but we do see glimpses of it through Cilka’s recollections of her past. The novel gives a sympathetic portrayal of Cilka and raises interesting questions about the decisions we make when confronted with the stark, brutal question of our own survival.
Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris is published by Zaffre. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an electronic copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.
Sophie @Sophie_Jo_Books 📚🐾