Finished Reading: Cilka’s Journey
by Heather Morris
My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Historical fiction
From a Nazi death camp to a Siberian gulag, we follow Cilka Klein, who was charged with spying for the enemy and conspiring, due to her role of senior officers’ mistress and death block leader in Auschwitz II-Birkenau. In the Russian prison camp, she faces 15 years of conditions not much better than they were in Auschwitz, plus the addition of frigid weather nearly year-round. She manages to stand apart yet again, but this time mostly because she shows herself to be a quick learner, which makes her valuable at the prison hospital.
This book is a sequel to The Tattooist of Auschwitz, but only in that Cilka is introduced in that first book, and some of the characters from the first book are brought up again in this one. I do recommend reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz first, for a more full experience, but you wouldn’t lose a lot if you didn’t. Click here to see my review of The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
I liked Cilka’s Journey a bit more than its predecessor, and I think that is because of the writing. I didn’t find it quite as stilted as in the first book. The subject matter is nearly as dark, especially since there are flashbacks to Cilka’s time at Birkenau, but we also get to see glimpses of her life before she went to the camp as well.
Cilka was very compassionate, even to her own detriment many times. I appreciated the way that her heart ached when a friend was hurt (physically or otherwise), or when a rift came between her and someone she cared about. She even managed to find a way to understand and forgive those who persecuted her, by acknowledging that they were simply trying to survive this place like she was. She may have been a bit on the Mary Sue side, somehow being the best at everything she did, but it wasn’t glaring.
There were a few events and situations that seemed unnecessary, or that were maybe only there to show again how wonderful Cilka was. I know that this book was even more fictionalized than The Tattooist of Auschwitz, with no first-hand account to draw from, so I did at times wonder how realistic certain things were.
In the end, it was a good read, and I would definitely recommend it to readers of historical fiction, especially of the WWII era.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find something much lighter to read, especially since the book I had originally planned to read next (Priceless by Joel & Luke Smallbone) also involves sexual abuse, and between these 2 books, I’ve had enough of that for a while.
If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!