Today’s audiobook review is for my second historical fiction novel by Heather Morris. I loved listening to The Tattooist of Auschwitz despite its subject matter, so I knew I had to listen to Cilka’s Journey as well!
As if the events of Auschwitz aren’t harrowing enough, Cilka’s Journey centres around a young woman who is imprisoned in a labour camp after being liberated from the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau site. She is imprisoned for helping the Nazis – her crime: prostituting herself to them… like she had a choice!
Cilka’s Journey – Heather Morris
In this follow-up to The Tattooist of Auschwitz, the author tells the story, based on a true one, of a woman who survives Auschwitz, only to find herself locked away again.
Cilka Klein is 18 years old when Auschwitz-Birkenau is liberated by Soviet soldiers. But Cilka is one of the many women who is sentenced to a labor camp on charges of having helped the Nazis–with no consideration of the circumstances Cilka and women like her found themselves in as they struggled to survive. Once at the Vorkuta gulag in Sibera, where she is to serve her 15-year sentence, Cilka uses her wits, charm, and beauty to survive.
The first thing I loved about this story is that it taught me something new. I didn’t actually know about the labour camps and the trials men and women such as Cilka went through. So much is known about the conditions and the treatment of prisoners in Auschwitz-Birkenau and I think it’s overshadowed other events following the Second World War. I have read a few books around the subject now, but nothing like this.
As with The Tattooist of Auschwitz, the tale is based on a real person’s account of what happened to them. Reading about it in a fictional sense is upsetting enough, but knowing that many people lived through such a terrible experience is even more harrowing. There is a lot of detail to the narrative, which I really enjoy; it validates the authenticity of the events and conditions people were forced to live in. It also makes it very easy for us as listeners/readers to put ourselves in Cilka’s shoes, feel her pain, sorrow, and a few moments of joy.
The bleak descriptions of the bitterly cold Siberian labour camp are haunting. Living in such cruel conditions made the lives of these women very difficult, especially for those left weak from their time in the concentration camp. It’s frighteningly easy to feel the isolation these women have from the rest of the world. Not all is bleak, however, as many strong friendships are forged between them in their common suffering. They have few personal possessions of their own, but readily give up what they can to help others. They find solace in each other and help one another through their darkest days.
This is an audiobook review, so it’s only fair to comment on how well the audiobook is narrated. The narrator Louise Brealey’s narration style is fantastic. Cilka’s Journey is an emotional account of horrific events and her ability to encapsulate the emotion makes it even easier for the reader (listener) to immerse themselves with the story.
As I hope you can tell from the review, this was a five-star read (listen) for me. I absolutely loved it and I’m sure it’s a book I will go back and read again!
Have you read Cilka’s Journey or The Tattooist of Auschwitz? Let me know in the comments!