Length: 349 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (October 1, 2019)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Audience: PG 13 (for many graphic scenes, including rape and injuries; as well as heavy language)
Buy On: Amazon
From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz comes a new novel based on a riveting true story of love and resilience.
Her beauty saved her — and condemned her.
Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1942, where the commandant immediately notices how beautiful she is. Forcibly separated from the other women prisoners, Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly taken, equals survival.
When the war is over and the camp is liberated, freedom is not granted to Cilka: She is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to a Siberian prison camp. But did she really have a choice? And where do the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was send to Auschwitz when she was still a child?
In Siberia, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she meets a kind female doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing and begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.
Confronting death and terror daily, Cilka discovers a strength she never knew she had. And when she begins to tentatively form bonds and relationships in this harsh, new reality, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.
From child to woman, from woman to healer, Cilka’s journey illuminates the resilience of the human spirit—and the will we have to survive.
Before I start out my review on Cilka’s Journey, if you have not read my review of The Tattooist of Aushwitz (book one in this mini-series), please take the time to read it here.
Okay, and now onto my review…
If you listened to my advice and read my review on The Tattooist of Aushwitz (which I know you probably didn’t–you naughty thing), you will know that I absolutely loved the book, the story, and the author. That being said, when I saw Heather Morris had a sequel to it, I immediately purchased it!
This author sure knows how to write a compelling historical novel! In The Tattooist of Aushwitz, we were briefly introduced to a young lady named Cilka. We weren’t given much information on her…just that Gita and her became fast friends and morally helped each other through the long months that they were held in the camps. We were also informed that Cilka was very beautiful, and therefore, caught the eye of a Nazi officer who decided to use her as a sex object. Without going into much detail, we just got the idea that she was raped every single day by this officer. When the war finally ended and the camps were liberated, many prisoners rejoiced because they regained their freedom, however, unfortunatley, this was not the case for Cilka. She was captured by the Russians and put into yet another concentration camp–this time with the conviction of “sleeping with the enemy”–and was sentenced to 15 years of labor.
I am going to stop my retelling of the synopsis right there, because, you have to realize, that Cilka had just survived several years at Auschwitz! AUSCHWITZ!! Also known as the death camp. And yet after surviving and fighting through such a terrible ideal, she is placed into yet another. And still she doesn’t give up. I mean if Rachel Platten was alive back then, Cilka’s life theme song would have been “Fight Song”. This girl was a fighter. And she fought hard.
Her story doesn’t end there though, because she was given a job as a nurse at the Russian camp, and because she put her whole effort into her work, she quickly escalated to gain a lot of trust between fellow workers, and even soldiers. This girl is just amazing.
This is not your typical series, as the second book did not follow the same main characters as the first book did. However, it was actually quite captivating, because I loved hearing more about Cilka–whom we were only briefly intorduced to before.
In The Tattooist Of Auschwitz , we were only told enough about Cilka to want to hear more about her story. Therefore, it was wonderful to get so much more detail. However, I was a bit confused on how the author would transition between The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka’s Journey, because they are supposed to be a series. I was worried that The Tattooist of Auschwitz would end, and the transition to Cilka’s Journey would be awkward, as we readers are trying to adjust to the new story line and characters.
However, this was fortunately not the case at all as Heather Morris did a phenomenal job at switching between the books. Cilka’s Journey picked right up where The Tattooist of Auschwitz had ended, and the transition could not have been cleaner. The reader was already familiar with the character of Cilka, as her friendship with Gita was an important part of The Tattooist of Auschwitz so it wasn’t like we were trying to adapt to completely new surrondings.
Not only that… throughout Cilka’s Journey, the author wrote flashbacks of Cilka’s life that answered questions and explained aspects of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, so it was almost like Cilka’s Journey was also finishing up the story of Lale and Gita. In The Tattooist of Auschwitz, like I said earlier, the author briefly described some scenes with Cilka, but they did leave me wondering what the whole story behind them were. It truly was great to settle these unknowns.
I can not think of any critiques I have for the book. Usually, I would complain on the amount of language and sex/rape content, but in this series, i honetly don’t believe I can do that, because Cilka’s journey was based on a true story during WWII. I mean this hell really did happen, and it was war, so obviously the content can not be picture clean and pristine. War was (and is) dirty. Dirty things happen Horrific things take place. And I honestly think there is a time and a place for language–during war is one of the very few times–therefore, I personally can not condem it.
In addition, the rape was a true thing. It really happened to Cilka. If I am going to be so sensitive about things like that, I might as well not read books about war, because as unfortunate as these events are, they really took place. Honestly, I think it is extremely vital for all humans to read books like this because this stuff really happened. In our day and age, the Holocaust is being forgotten, and these victims’–like Cilka’s–stories are being buried. Yes, Cilka’s Journey is a work of fiction, but the person, Cilka really did live, and really did fight like heck to survive. Her legacy–and thousands of people like her–should never be forgotten.
I give it to Heather Morris for re-awakening these individuals’ stories and delivering it in such a touching and passionate way. I absolutely loved this books, and 100% reccomend them to all readers out there.
If I’m being honest, I prefered Cilka’s Journey over The Tattooist of Auschwitz. However, don’t let me give you an opinion–make one for your own, by joining the journies of Lale, Gita, Cilka, and the millions of people who fought and suffered along side them.