Learning About the Past Through Historical Fiction

81XAhkfzn-LI recently read a novel called The Tattooist of Auschwitz, a fictional depiction based on the real life events of a man named Lale’s harrowing three years in the concentration camp. I’ve never been the biggest fan of historical fiction, but I picked up this book based on the recommendations of the members in Facebook’s Monthly Book Club.

Let me start off by saying, I only gave this novel 3 stars on Goodreads (I would have given it 3.5, if I could). My rating in no way reflects Lale’s incredible story. It’s an important story, and anyone who is interested in learning the true horrors of the Holocaust will find what they’re looking for in these pages.

However, it was the way it was written that I had a problem with. It felt like author Heather Morris tried to fit as much information as she could into the book’s 288 pages without stopping to get to the emotional core of what the characters went through. It was a lot of telling and not showing, a concept that all my English teachers preached about not doing when I was in school.

I later learned that Morris had originally written Lale’s story as a screenplay, which makes a lot more sense as this was almost how the book read. It also makes sense why no one would ever want to adapt this story for the screen. There are quite a few horrific scenes that would be very unsettling to watch. It was extremely unsettling just to read about the countless deaths, I can’t imagine putting a visual to it.

Subpar rating aside, this novel had a profound affect on me. History was never my favorite subject in school, but as I’ve gotten older I find myself trying to understand the way the world works in relation to its past. Entertainment and media is a great gateway into interesting me on past events. Hamilton was a a big proponent in helping me understand America’s beginnings and how our country came to be. Now The Tattooist of Auschwitz has propelled me to better understand World War II, and why the Holocaust happened in the first place.

To learn more about the war, I went to a handy source –  my husband. Steve is a history buff, with a particular interest in the politics of World War II. We spent time together discussing Hitler’s background, how other countries became involved, and about the creation of Israel after the war was over. These were all topics I had never known the details of, or knew about at all (I didn’t realize Israel was such a young country). It opened my eyes to the importance of our world’s history and how things today came to be.

Becoming educated on these issues wasn’t the only plus side. Talking about the topic with my husband has opened us up to intellectual conversations on a similar interest. I think he’s enjoyed teaching me about the subject and getting to share his knowledge and opinion of it. We have also taken to watching documentaries not only about Auschwitz and World War II, but about other topical issues, as well. It has effectively brought us closer.

This is a sign of a great book; one that makes you think on a higher level as opposed to being pure entertainment (though after a book like Tattooist, it might be beneficial to read a so-called mindless book to recharge your emotional battery). It has made me interested in reading more historical fiction to which I can have further stimulating discussions with Steve. And to learn about the world in a way that is creative and not preachy.

Other great historical novels I have read this year:

  • The Gown by Jennifer Robson (post-WWII era/Princess Elizabeth’s impending wedding)
  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage in the 1940s)
  • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (post-Vietnam War)

To learn more about The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Lale’s incredible journey (including taped interviews) check out thetattooistofauschwitz.com.

What are some historical novels that have affected you? Tell me below in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Learning About the Past Through Historical Fiction

  1. janetsm 8 Aug 2019 / 4:40 pm

    Historical fiction has become my favorite genre. You might like to read The Taster, by V.S. Alexander. It’s about the people who had to taste Hitler’s food in order to determine if it had been poisoned. I just finished listening to The Spies of Shilling Lane, by Jennifer Ryan. It’s about some unlikely people who are spies for the British in London during WWII. If you’d like a diversion from WWII-era novels, I enjoyed The Kitchen House, by Leah Weiss, and The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead. I enjoyed reading your post today and how reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris had an unexpected impact on you and your marriage. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • stacyerdman16 8 Aug 2019 / 9:45 pm

      Thank you for the recommendations! The Taster sounds particularly interesting. I feel like I will be able to be fully invested in WWII novels now (but probably only fiction. I don’t know how I would do reading nonfiction).


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