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CILKA'S JOURNEY BY HEATHER MORRIS

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

Click on each name to read the review. If you would like to become part of the Viking Book Club, sign up sign up here >>

REVIEWS

Victoria Jephcote

Despite its controversial take on Cilka’s story, which has unfortunately upset her family, I quite enjoyed this book. Trying to remember that it is a mix of fact and fiction is also key. I loved how the stories of the two camps were run concurrently with the flash backs and that there was a very human aspect to the book really engaging with the characters feelings.

A beautifully written story of strength dealing with some of history’s worst atrocities. The hard truths are not masked but acknowledged in a way that allows people to be reminded of events that should never be allowed in humanity. A story of the most needed of human traits that bring strength from within hope and love. Even in the darkest times, a difference can be made to those surrounding you.

Samantha Thornton

This is the story of Cilka Klein a young Czechoslovakian Jewish girl who in 1945 was taken from Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, where she had spent 3 years being raped and abused by the Nazis. The Russians “liberated” the prisoners, however as we read her story the Russians believed she collaborated with the Nazis and therefore taken to a Gulag.

We are first introduced to Cilka on a train bound for Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia and this is where her story of survival starts again. The story focuses on the unbelievable horror of the Gulag that millions of women and men endured. The story gives us a glimpse of Cilka’s life when she lived in Czechoslovakia with her parents before the German invasion and her life in Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp.

Her life in the Gulag is terrible hard, however she is taken under the wing of a Russian female doctor in the Gulag hospital where she is trained to care for the other prisoners, giving her a sense that she is helping her fellow prisoners. We read about the joy she shares with her female friends and the simple things in life and her determination to survive again.

Thank you Viking for this book, I have thoroughly enjoyed read it.

Helen Parriss

I read this book thinking it was a fictional book based on fact, which the author reiterates, ensuring that the message is portrayed that this part of history should not be forgotten. If my son had read this, aged 24, his reaction would not have been any different to mine and he too would have been horrified about the atrocities and needless loss of life. It can make you feel uncomfortable and sad but feel the love and resilience in equal measures. I would recommend young and old to read this book.

Sally Vickerman

As a huge fan of Heather Morris’s prequel The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Cilka’s Journey was on my ‘to read’ list. So imagine my delight when I returned home one day to find a copy had been sent to me - thank you Viking!

As a sequel this book didn’t disappoint.

Cilka of the title is a young Czech girl who after spending 3 years in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp where she both witnesses and endures unimaginable horrors is then upon liberation by the Russian Army of the camp sent to Siberia as a prisoner once more to work in Vorkuta Prison Camp.

The book tells of her ordeal at the hands of her Russian captors interspersed with flashbacks of her time at Auschwitz.

Based on a real person and true accounts of these terrible atrocities, the book is at times a hard read but it draws you in to wanting to find out about Cilka’s personal journey, and how she has the strength to not only cope with the daily struggle of keeping alive, but also grow into a woman with a strength of character that belies her youth.

Reading about this part of our history isn’t for everyone, but for those that feel it is important to know about the terrible things humans did to each other during this time, this book rewards the reader with a tale of hope that friendship, trust and love really can make a difference between living or dying.

Mark Jamieson

I’ve read this book far faster than most I read, thus you can conclude that it is likely to hold your attention; for me however it was not what I’d describe as a page turner. It’s an important story about an utterly tragic time in world history; arguably two tragedies, the first being the Nazi death camps, the second being Stalin’s gulags. And Cilka experiences both of these camps, commencing age 16. Quite how phenomenal, painful and draining this woman’s survival instincts were is unbelievable; quite how cruel and misguided mankind can be to fellow man utterly shocking.

The story is well written, but I don’t think it will stand the test of time with me like Wild Swans by Jung Chang has; a truly compelling story of China’s cultural revolution nightmare and my go-to recommendation for anyone who feels that today’s “first-world” problems are causing them to suffer. But Cilka’s Journey gets close, Heather Morris has my thanks.

John Pierce

The book is well written and easy to read. I found the ‘flashback’ sections being in italics made it a lot easier to follow than the norm in books, which is just to give a date as the chapter heading.

Although the book is a novel it is based on fact, I found that the central character, Cilka, is too good to be true. Excellent in languages, star pupil at the hospital and everybody loves her. Always puts others before herself throughout the book, which in the context of being in a gulag is a bit of a stretch of the imagination. Also when upset goes without food, which considering she is in a gulag and food is precious does not ring true.

The whole book really has a ‘feel good factor’ and does not really portray what must have been the real horror and deprivation in both the concentration camp and the gulag. However in the ‘Additional Information’ section as an appendix to the story there is a much better and truer description of what life must have been like in the gulags.

Finally the ending is really rushed and dealt with in just a few pages.

Despite my comments about the book being basically a bit unbelievable as it is set in a gulag, it is still a good read and imparts some of the horrors of the inmates sent their in most cases for trivial offences against the State.

Gill Lloyd

I haven’t read the prequel-The Tattooist of Auschwitz - however this doesn’t distract from this harrowing novel so expertly written by Heather Morris.

This is one of those books that once started you are compelled to continue reading it.

The reader is immediately fully immersed in the horrific daily happenings in Cilkas life in both Auschwitz and the Siberian concentration camp. One feels as if you are actually beside her as she goes about her terrible daily struggle for life.

An excellent read based on the Holocaust which must never be forgotten.

Brian Whiteside

Cilka’s Journey is a wholly compelling and moving story. It is heartrending tale about man’s inhumanity to man, and of men’s inhumanity to women. From the first chapter I was compelled to read all the way through. It is frightening to get this view (albeit fiction based on good research) of survival in the most horrific situations. Cilka was a remarkable person – and I wonder what happened to the other survivors who were less resilient than she was, although many had different kinds of strength.

I read the book while on a Viking River cruise. I would advise caution against reading it in the open lounge area as at times it just about moved me to tears.

Alison Bell

This was not an easy read, the horrors of the Gulags and the way one human being can treat another so cruelly were all there. Nevertheless, Cilka was a truly beautiful person who was always true to her self. There were harrowing pictures of life in Vorkuta Gulag and the atrocious conditions for the prisoners but the love of the ladies in Hut 29 for each other was heart-warming. It has certainly inspired me to read The Tattooist of Auschwitz by the same authoress.

Mary Hutson

A very moving story that I loved reading. Amazing how such a young girl could be so strong in the face of such cruelty and deprivation.

I felt the power of friendship that supported this group of prisoners, their memories of a happier past and the fight for survival they had every day.

Cilka’s feelings of guilt and lack of self worth permeate her story yet she shone like a diamond in the cruel world she inhabited even though she shunned attention.

This book was hard to put down. No sentimentality here but deeply disturbing. Cilka was small in stature, intelligent and determined to survive. I was so pleased her story had a happy ending.