A Real Good Pauser – A review of The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe

The Librarian of Auschwitz would get along very well with The Book Thief. I never thought I’d pick up a second book about a girl coming of age through literature they picked up and read secretly during World War II, but here I am.

This book follows Dita, a Jew girl coming of age deep in the regime of Nazi concentration camps. During her stay in Auschwitz, a respected adult in the camp seeks to keep the children educated within the family block of the camp. Dita is sought out to protect a small collection of books, contraband that made its way through the security of the guards and kapo. She takes up her responsibilities in pride, caring for the books and stories with all the hope inside her, and inspiring others as situations grow ever dimmer for the prisoners of Auschwitz Birkenau.

I will admit that the narrative in this novel wasn’t strong, and neither were the secondary perspectives present. I will acknowledge that these points were instead included for historical and informative purposes, as it was based on a true story, but some didn’t adhere to Dita, the focal character’s, story. They were still very nice and insightful to read, but it did take me out of the story ever so slightly.

As for the story itself though, it took me on an emotional log flume. I would say rollercoaster, but these emotions were never of excitement. It was just a constant drift to peace and hope only to be crushed by something traumatic and filled with despair just around the next corner. There was a constant and evolving numbing sensation when reading this book that was both comforting and chilling at the same time.

And yet it took me so long to read. That is not to discredit the value of the book itself, though I used to think the time it took to finish a book was reflective of that. Some of the content in this book just had to be processed and reflected upon. I feel like this book wouldn’t have hit the same without it. It covers a lot of deep moments that most other books wouldn’t be able to put together in such a way, especially when much of the content in it was based on true experiences. I spent much of the second half of the book reading with watery eyes, not quite tears but getting close.

That was largely due to the way it was writing, almost poetically. I don’t think that there was a chapter that didn’t feature a quote worth gushing over. And the way each character was described by appearance was incredible, I’m definitely taking notes from this book for describing characters in the future. I’m not sure if it was the work of the translator or the actual author, but so much language in this novel was stunning. This makes me wonder if there are different ways to tell stories or make metaphors in other languages, because the language in this book was just ethereal.

But I think the highlight of the novel was seeing Dita grow. Coming of age is a classic and timeless tale, but the way Dita grew braver and nobler in face of her hardships was just incredible, especially when her childhood whimsy was still present. Her mother quoted that living in Auschwitz was no way to grow up, but the way that Dita did was admirable and incredible. That’s what truly brought on the beauty of The Librarian of Auschwitz.

The Librarian of Auschwitz gets a score of 4/5. A very thought provoking and reflective read placed against a historically important backdrop.

Yours in writing


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