Beatrice Reviews “The Writer” by J.C. Maetis

“The Writer” by J.C. Maetis
★★★★

The Writer by J.C. Maetis – Schindler’s List meets The Tattooist of Auschwitz –  a gripping tale of love, survival and redemption against the backdrop of one of the darkest periods in recent history. 

Two Writers. One lives to write. The other writes to live…


Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book for free, for an honest and unbiased review.

I admit, when I first received a request to review this novel, I was a little skeptical upon reading the blurb and after my experience with the novel The Tattooist of Auschwitz. However, the premise of The Writer was intriguing so I decided to give it a shot and boy, am I glad I did.

The Writer follows the lives of Mathias Kraemer, Johannes Namal and Josef Weber, three different individuals with varying backgrounds whose lives and paths are tied together by the tragedies surrounding Nazi Germany. Through these characters, the book does a wonderful job of examining the circumstances and impact of Anschluss and the cruel, merciless regime of Hitler on three different communities: the Jews, half-Jews and Austrian-Catholics.

I was surprised to encounter a historical fiction novel on the Holocaust that effortlessly combined elements of various genres together. The Writer is a thriller, romance and drama all in one.

My heart raced and had me turning the pages out of concern for these characters that I fell in love with, anxious for them as they faced the harrowing possibilities of execution and being sent to concentration camps. The unlikely love story of Inspector Josef Weber and Romani-gypsy Deya Reynes adds a different light to the plot and kept me grounded in the horrors faced by non-Jewish couples as well in this very dark period of history.

This is, in my opinion, the strongest element in the novel.

Maetis does an incredible job in bringing to life the struggles of not just the Jews, but other communities as well such as Mischlings (the term used by the Nazi regime to refer to individuals of mixed Aryan and Jewish ancestry), the Gypsy community and those who refused to go without a fight that were branded as ‘dissidents’.

We don’t get a simple, black-and-white portrayal here of good and bad, of the right and wrong choices. Instead, the author gives us a full-fledged illustration of a world that we can count ourselves lucky to have not experienced, but in the process brings us one step closer to empathizing and learning from the horrors of it.

That being said, The Writer may be a gripping historical thriller but what struck me most was the humanity of the story itself. As mentioned in the blurb, a great part of the story revolves around two writers. One who grips to his own life on account of his profession as a writer, and the other that attempts to save others through his words.

Being a writer myself, this struck a chord in me: how words, how the art of writing itself can slice through the darkness and provide rays of light, provide hope and illuminate a path to redemption.

I cannot wait to see this book published and wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone when it is. Kudos to the author for managing the sensitivities surrounding the period of time in which his novel is set with the elements of love, suspense and drama that he weaves into the plot.

Do you want a page-turning thriller? Or do you want a Holocaust novel written so vividly it plays out like a movie in your head? Or even a love story with two very real, very raw characters that you can root for from the start?

Look no further. The Writer has something beautiful to offer you that will make the experience of reading it your own.

The Writer is pending release. In the mean time, you can check out the author’s other works here!

Beatrice Reviews “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris

“The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris
☆☆

Image result for the tattooist of auschwitz

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.


I hate to be that person, who reads a book of hope and love set during one of the darkest times of history, who goes, “meh, I’ll give it a 2.5/3 star rating”. A love story set during the Holocaust – that’s exactly what we need to remind us that love can trump all and prevail, even in the darkest of times. But, in this case, I just could not find myself consumed by the novel. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the true story of the two individuals (Lale and Gita) on who this book is based on. It’s the execution that I have a problem with.

Let me explain. It all boils down to one thing really: bad writing.

It isn’t great. It isn’t horrible, but it isn’t good either. It’s that awkward attempt at trying to do justice to a true story but failing to tick all the boxes, resulting in a novel that’s both here and there.

I love dialogue but when there’s too much of it, it creates a block in the reading experience. The simple rule of ‘show, don’t tell’ can also be applied to leveraging dialogue to keep the story moving forward. With the lack of prose, much of the story is stifled and contained to the interactions and conversations between the characters without exploring the spectrum of their emotions. It gives away too much of the story, in a way that leveraging descriptive prose and imagery [especially of the setting i.e. the Auschwitz concentration camp] would have done better.

Secondly, the pacing. I didn’t feel the urge to frantically turn from one page to the next, anxiously waiting to discover what befalls the characters next. Again, the use of so much dialogue could factor in here but moreso, the actual progression of the novel. There was no ‘rising action’ or tension that drew me in as a reader. That being said, I in no way am commenting on the true events or the nature of the subject matter in itself, merely on the writing style.

It was very choppy – with quick changes in the scenery, abrupt flashbacks that acted as an attempt to provide more depth to the characters but fell flat.

Speaking of which, the character development was disappointing. I finished the book, still feeling a disconnect to Lale and Gita whose story, though beautiful, just didn’t touch me in the right way. And this is coming from someone who gets sad at the idea of a bee stinging me and dying.

Lale is a charming young man that manages to slip in and out of tricky situations, literally translating to do-or-die scenarios. Fate leads him to Gita and the entire story has us believing that they were destined to be together. The storytelling, in itself, however has much left to be desired. The sense of detachment I felt from the book afterward was not what I’d expected to take away from the read.

That being said, the book acts as a testament to a true account of love and survival in one of the most harrowing periods of history. The world needs stories like this to be shared, people whose love has withstood the trials of time and reality to inspire those who feel there is less beauty in this world worth living for.

I would recommend this book to those of you who’d like to experience that on some level. Maybe this book didn’t touch me on a sentimental scale but you might feel differently.

Here’s to hoping you do.