#LeedsReadsBookclub June/July – The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Tattooist of AuschwitzOur recommended read and this month’s book club book is The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.

This novel is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews, who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.

Download the book via Borrowbox (by following this link or downloading the Borrowbox app onto your android or iOS device) in either eBook or eAudiobook format. Don’t worry about having to wait for the book – it can be read by lots of people at the same time, making it ideal for a book club book.

Below are some topics and questions for you to consider when reading the book. These questions originally came from the publisher.

1. How did you feel about Lale when he was first introduced, as he arrived in Auschwitz? How did your understanding of him change throughout the novel?

2. What qualities did Lale have that influenced the way he was treated in the camp? Where did those qualities come from?

3. Survival in the camp depended on people doing deeds of questionable morality. Lale became the tattooist, but how did Gita’s choices affect her survival? What about her friend who befriended a Nazi?

4. Inmates in the concentration camp had to make life-or-death decisions every day. Why did some make the “right” decisions and survive while others did not?

5. Discuss some of the small acts of humanity carried out by individuals in The Tattooist of Auschwitz. How did these small acts of kindness have greater implications? Did it make you reconsider what you believe to be brave or heroic? Did this make you think differently about the impact of your own everyday actions?

6. The Tattooist of Auschwitz makes clear that there were also non-Jewish prisoners in the camp. How did the treatment of Jews differ from that of non-Jews? How did differences manifest themselves?

7. Had Gita and Lale met in a more conventional way, would they have developed the same kind of relationship? How did their circumstances change the course of their romance?

8. In what ways were the relationships between Gita and her friends different from the usual friendships between teenage girls? In what ways were they similar?

9. In what ways was Lale a hero? In what ways was he an ordinary man?

10. Lale faced danger even after the camp was liberated. How did his experiences immediately after liberation prepare him for the rest of his life?

11. How does The Tattooist of Auschwitz change your perceptions about the Holocaust in particular, and war in general? What implications does this book hold for our own time?

#LeedsReadsBookclub May/June – The Wife Between Us

The Wife Between Us

Our recommended read and this month’s book club book is The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. 

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions. It’s about a jealous wife, obsessed with her replacement. It’s about a younger woman set to marry the man she loves. The first wife seems like a disaster; her replacement is the perfect woman. You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships. You will be wrong.

Download the book via Borrowbox (by following this link or downloading the Borrowbox app onto your android or iOS device) in either eBook or eAudiobook format. Don’t worry about having to wait for the book – it can be read by lots of people at the same time, making it ideal for a book club book.

Below are some topics and questions for you to consider when reading the book. For this guide and more information on the book visit the authors website greerhendricks.com

  1. On page 7, Samantha asks Nellie one of the defining questions of the novel: “Ever think he’s too good to be true?” At what point did you start to think that Sam might be right, and Richard might actually be too good to be true?
  2. What do you think is the significance of Vanessa’s new job at an upscale clothing store? How might it affect her to still be in the upper class world she once occupied, but in a much different role? Compare and contrast her experience there to her previous job as a teacher.
  3. Throughout the novel, Aunt Charlotte and Vanessa have an extremely close relationship, even when Vanessa struggles to be honest with her aunt. How do you see this relationship affecting the choices Vanessa makes? Is there someone in your family with whom you have a similar bond?
  4. When did you realize who Vanessa, Nellie, and Emma actually are? How did this new understanding shape your experience of the rest of the story, and how do you think it will affect your experience if you reread the novel?
  5. On page 162, Vanessa says, “I guess I thought marrying Richard would erase my concerns. But my old anxieties simply yielded to new ones.” Do you think that that is a common misconception about entering into a marriage? If so, why do you think so many men and women believe this?
  6. The Wife Between Us asks difficult questions about how much someone’s past can explain or excuse their behavior. What’s your opinion? Did getting to know more about Vanessa’s or Richard’s backstory help to explain or justify their choices at all?
  7. The theme of sight – foresight, hindsight, and even real, physical eyesight – is wound throughout the entire novel. Maggie, the young sorority pledge, repeatedly says, “I hate it when I can’t see.” Do you think that anyone in this novel could (or should) have been able to see more clearly the consequences of their actions? Do you believe in the old saying, “Hindsight is 20/20?”
  8. Did the end of the novel leave you questioning who was really calling the shots and who had a full picture of what was going on? Which character do you think was truly orchestrating the events that were set into action – or was there more than one person responsible? Why do you believe this?

Join us to discuss this book on Twitter on Thursday 18th June at 5.30pm. Don’t forget to use #LeedsReadsBookclub in your tweets.