Three Sisters – Heather Morris

Published: Bonnier Zaffre
Pages: 400
Date published: 14/10/2021
Date read: 14/07/2021

When they are girls, Cibi, Magda and Livia make a promise to their father – that they will stay together, no matter what.

Years later, at just 15 years old, Livia is ordered to Auschwitz by the Nazis. Cibi, only 19 herself, remembers their promise and follows Livia, determined to protect her sister, or die with her.

In their hometown in Slovakia, 17-year-old Magda hides, desperate to evade the barbaric Nazi forces. But it is not long before she is captured and condemned to Auschwitz.

In the horror of the death camp, these three beautiful sisters are reunited. Though traumatised by their experiences, they are together.

They make another promise: that they will live. Their fight for survival takes them from the hell of Auschwitz, to a death march across war-torn Europe and eventually home to Slovakia, now under iron Communist rule. Determined to begin again, they embark on a voyage of renewal, to the new Jewish homeland, Israel.

Rich in vivid detail, and beautifully told, Three Sisters will break your heart, but leave you amazed and uplifted by the courage and fierce love of three sisters, whose promise to each other kept them alive. Two of the sisters are in Israel today, surrounded by family and friends. They have chosen Heather Morris to reimagine their story in her astonishing new novel, Three Sisters.

Thanks to Heather Morris and Bonnier Zaffre for providing me with this advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

I absolutely adored Heather’s two previous novels – The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka’s Journey – so I was more than excited to see she’d written another book. I love the nods to her previous novels in this one, like meeting the tattooist. They don’t ruin the book for someone who hasn’t read the others, but they’re a callback to those who have.

No matter how many books, fictional or non-fictional, I read about the Holocaust, they will always be hard to read. You know this is a fiction book, but knowing it’s based on real horrors, even now it’s hard to believe it ever happened.

Heather never downplays the violence and horrors, but equally she doesn’t use it for just entertainment purposes. It is sadly just what it is. No one could possibly invent the horrors fictionalised in this book.

I love that these stories are real and Heather has been chosen as the guardian of them. Is there a risk of her books becoming repetitive? Possibly. But that’s not a reason to stop writing them. These stories need to be remembered forever to prevent them ever happening again.

Heather manages to portray the joy amongst the pain, fear and desperation. What they went through was terrible, but she’s managed to ensure we don’t forget the beauty the sisters experienced too.

Near the end of the book, Heather mentions a sculpture called “The Miracle of Three Sisters” in a Toronto exhibition titled “WAR Light Within/After the Darkness”, so I had to look it up. I found the online brochure with the sculpture in. It’s a very simple glass sculpture but it brought tears to my eyes. It’s so simple but so moving. I think it is something that should be shown to everyone learning about WW2 and the Holocaust.

I also love that in the acknowledgements at the end, Heather provides an update on all the people mentioned in the book. So we can remember all those who help keep these sisters together.

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