Posted in Reviews, The Sisters Recommend, Traveling Sisters Reads

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris @StMartinsPress

Love a strong character, this one is for you and one not to be missed!!!

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

Brenda’s review

Cilka’s Journey is a fictionalized story that is inspired by what Heather Morris discovered about real-life Cilka who is a character in The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

Cilka survived Auschwitz and then was sent to a labour camp for collaborating and sleeping with the enemy. Heather Morris captures what it could have been like for Cilka and the other prisoners in the camp.

Cilka’s bravery and strength shine through here as we see her care for prisoners and her friends. It is an inspiring, hopeful story of an ordinary young woman who becomes an extraordinary woman under unimaginable circumstances. Cilka’s actions throughout the story show us the goodness in people at times of horror and the strength needed to survive. I highly recommend it.

I received a copy from the publisher on NetGalley

Lindsay’s review

An engrossing, shocking and unsettling extension of this series. I read and loved The Tattooist of Auschwitz last year and was eagerly anticipating getting my hands on a copy of Cilka’s Journey. Although a very difficult novel to read due to the atrocities detailed within these pages, I found this book to be even more intriguing and informative than the first one. The writing is honest, brutal at times, but so important to read so we can honour those that lived through these devastating wartimes. Their voices cannot be forgotten.

Cilka is only sixteen-years-old when she is sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1942. She is singled out by the commandant to be given separate living arrangements where she will be available for his pleasure. After living this way for three years, the camp is liberated, although Cilka is not freed. She is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy. She is sentenced to fifteen years at a Siberian prison camp where living conditions are not much different than they were at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

I had not known about these Siberian prison camps prior to reading this novel. I was devastated to learn that these dreadful prison camps continued existing after the liberation of Auschwitz. The charges that Cilka faced were so extremely unjust. Had Cilka denied the commandant what he requested, she would have been killed. What other option did she have? My mind was spinning with this situation throughout the entire novel. What options did these prisoners have other than to accept what was demanded of them?

I loved Cilka’s character. She was extremely strong and inspiring in the face of so much pain. She gave strength and hope to many.

On a side note, I believe a large part of what made me truly connect to and love this book so much was that I had been advised by Brenda (who read this novel before I did) that not everything that happens to Cilka is based on fact. As with any historical fiction book, fact and fiction are weaved together to paint a broad picture of the time period/situation being examined. Although Cilka was a real person who could of endured much of what happens in this novel, not every circumstance is her personal story. I think knowing that ahead of time really enhanced my connection to the story as it stopped me from looking too deep into the reality of each scenario. As the Heather Morris mentions in the Note at the end of the novel, “There is a mix of characters inspired by real-life figures, in some instances representing more than one individual, and characters completely imagined.” I urge you to keep this in mind when reading this harrowing and unforgettable book. Heather Morris does a phenomenal job incorporating much detail into this gripping and emotional storyline.

I will leave you with one of the most powerful quotes from this book. “Everyone affected by war, captivity, or oppression reacts differently — and away from it, people might try to guess how they would act, or react, in the circumstances. But they do not really know.”

Thank you to my lovely local library for the loan of this exceptional novel!