St. Martin's Press and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of Cilka's Journey. I was under no obligation to review this book and my opinion is freely given.
Cilka's Journey is a follow up to The Tattooist of Auschwitz, focused solely on a lesser character from that novel. Cilka was an unwilling participant to the SS officers' whims, but she is charged with collaboration by the Russian liberators. Sent to a Soviet gulag in the desolate region of Siberia, Cilka must again do whatever it takes to survive. As she tries to form connections with others in the camp, will Cilka gain the courage to make it through her new reality?
As the novel is based loosely on living people, the classification of historical fiction is accurate for Cilka's Journey. Considering the emotionally charged situations in which Cilka finds herself, I never quite felt that connection. Cilka's horror, her terror at being restrained once again, never really comes through in the dialogue. The repetitive nature of the plot also worked against this novel, taking away from what could have been a compelling story of a young woman fighting to survive. The author takes liberties with Cilka, getting only the broadest of information about her from real life, credible sources. The Siberian camp was treated with quick brushstrokes, which was a big misstep in my opinion. The desolation, the harsh conditions, and the brutality of daily life do not come across as realistic, although these camps did exist. Readers who like World War II historical fiction may like Cilka's Journey for its attempt to tell a different type of story than the norm.