This novel is a story of survival, a fictionalized version of the life of a real person. At the age of sixteen, Cilka is imprisoned at Auschwitz and survives by doing whatever is required to stay alive. When the Russians liberate the camp three years later, they accuse Cilka of being a Nazi collaborator and send her to a Siberian Gulag. Again she survives by making decisions, good and bad, to not only stay living but try to keep her hut mates and friends alive.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I’m not a great fan of historical fiction or WWII novels, so my judgment may be skewed. The story is very dark, depicting man’s inhumanity to man. Yet it contains accounts of kindness and friendship…even love. Some parts of the tale are poignant and heartbreaking, but other parts lack emotion. Cilka has a conflicted personality. She keeps her life secret, protecting herself from the judgment of others, keeping her distance from fellow prisoners. But she reaches out to help and defend them.
I read Cilka’s Journey as a stand-alone. It was given to me by a friend at this time when the libraries are closed (spring 2020). I probably won’t read the previous book in the series.