...[an] extraordinary debut novel ... While Lale’s story is told at one remove—he held his recollections inside for more than half a century, fearing he might be branded as a collaborator—it is no less moving, no less horrifying, no less true ... it is a story that desperately needs to be read.
Lale comes across as a sharp-witted businessman with a touch of the con artist, smuggling out jewels and currency in sausages and chocolate. Although one might suspect that there’s far more to his past than is revealed here, much of Lale’s story’s complexity makes it onto the page. And even though it’s clear that Lale will survive, Morris imbues the novel with remarkable suspense.
It’s a triumphant account with a resourceful, bold, and charismatic hero who eludes death time and again. Adding to its cinematic potential is the fact that The Tattooist of Auschwitz is chiefly a love story ... And yet, and yet: there is nevertheless something incongruous about this story of survival being framed as an Auschwitz romance ... Morris, in her debut, has created a fast-paced narrative, filled with drama and suspense, and there are passages that are genuinely moving. But one wonders what Lale’s story would have looked like as a work of biography or as a more complex work of literary fiction ... It is often said that words aren’t up to the task of conveying the horrors of atrocities like the Holocaust; at times, Morris’s prose, lapsing into cliche, doesn’t come close ... Some of the most complicated aspects of Lale’s years at Auschwitz are alluded to primarily in dialogue, leaving them largely unexamined ... In this well-intentioned but flawed work, she has succeeded in telling a remarkable story, if not in excavating its wrenching complexities.