Book: Cilka’s Journey
Author: Heather Morris
Genre: Historical Fiction
Who should read this book: Anyone that read The Tattooist of Auschwitz
If you’ve read The Tattooist of Auschwitz, you will remember Cilka. For those who haven’t, Cilka was a prisoner in Auschwitz-Birkenau. She was taken there from Czechoslovakia at the age of 16 with her sister and put in the camp. Soon after being there, she was noticed by the guards. The SS officers noticed her beauty and made her the leader of Block 25. That was where the woman in the camp went the night before they were taken to a gas chamber. As the leader of this block she had her own room and was often alone in the building. Two SS officers came for her, she was raped by these men for 3 years. When Auschwitz was liberated, the Russians deemed Cilka a collaborator because she slept with the enemy. They didn’t seem to care that she was a teenager that had only two choices, submit or die. So she was taken to a Siberian prison camp where she stayed for 10 years. Continuing to endure the unwanted advances of men and the judgement for what she did at Auschwitz.
This book isn’t a love story between a man and a woman, this book is a story of one woman’s strength and will to survive. Cilka builds strong friendships in this book, it shows the power of woman working together and supporting each other. Something I think all women need to be reminded of sometimes. Cilka was an incredible young woman and I absolutely loved reading her story. This book is based on whatever facts Morris was able to dig up about Cilka, through testimonies and interviews with her family and neighbours. The rest is filled in by fiction just like the tattooist. She also got a lot of her information about Cilka from Lale.
Writing 1/2 points: I’ll start here because it’s my only complaint. Morris has a writing style that sometimes I don’t like. It sometimes doesn’t flow well and feels a little jarring. Mostly it’s fine, but sometimes I don’t like it.
Feel 2/2 points: All the feels. Cilka went through so much crap in Poland and then gets taken to Siberia for more crap. I couldn’t help but feel so sorry for her and just wishing she could have a happy ending.
Historical Accuracy 2/2 points: As with the Tattooist, the historical accuracy is not too important for me. Morris is very open and clear that a lot of this story is fiction. She had people constantly asking her what happened to Cilka after the Tattooist, so she researched and wrote this story. 90% of the book takes place in the gulag and it is well researched.
Plot 2/2 points: The story focuses mainly on Cilka’s time in prison, but she often reminisces about her past. So we the reader are given a little more insight to what happened to her in Auschwitz, as well as some memories of her family life before Poland. It helps us learn more about where Cilka’s strength comes from. Also no spoilers, but the book does have a happy ending so all the sadness eventually ends.
Hook 2/2 points: I think the hook for me was reading the Tattooist. If you hadn’t read that you would still be completely intrigued by the poor 19 year old being sentenced to a Siberian prison. But I do think reading the Tattooist first is a good idea.
This book releases on October 1. I’d like to say a big thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me an early copy of this book. I highly recommend this one, it’s a beautiful story of female strength.