The Tin Ring by Zdenka Fantlova

Image of the front cover of the paperback version of The Tin Ring by Zdenka Fantlova. The cover looks like it's made of cheap brown paper and has a font that looks like a typewriter. The design is simple having only the book title and author alongside an image of a dull tin ring that looks aged. To the left of the image is a title that reads 'Review The Tin Ring by Zdenka Fantlova'

Having read the Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka's Journey last year I was recommended this book by a friend. I borrowed her copy and it is the only physical book I've read this year. I really love my Kindle but it was wonderful to hold a physical book, there is something about well thumbed pages and that unique paper smell that makes my heart soar. It's like holding history in your hands (so thank you Susan for the experience ❤️) 

The Tin Ring by Zdenka Fantlova differs greatly to other books I've read that have been set throughout the war as this book is the author's real life story. A heart wrenching, biographical account of the author's time in Terezin, Auschwitz and finally the notorious Burgen-Belsen. Zdenka's journey is an incredible one. The book feels more authentic than The Tattooist of Auschwitz did. The relationships felt more genuine and less romantic. The descriptions of camp life are disturbing and on occasions actually made me feel ill. Zdenka's experience is laid bare and not glamorised at all. It is less about portraying a sense of having an unbreakable human spirit but more about describing sheer determination and pushing on through physical and emotional pain, about being broken but still surviving. 

From an educational point of view this book is an amazing resource as it describes often overlooked aspects of daily life for the people that lived in the camps. I was particularly fascinated by the descriptions of how the camp mates travelled between sites. Zdenka explains in great detail the sights and smells and gives the reader a clear sense of how truly horrific the experience was. 

It's a book that should be read with caution. It's very unsettling and makes you feel very uncomfortable, though to me that should be motivation to read it. To keep the memory of what happened alive and continue to gain more understanding about what happened to these people. They don't deserve to be forgotten. 

In terms of readability the story begins rather slowly and ambles along, describing life in a typical Czech town. I found this part of the book a bit long winded but it turned out to be necessary as having this background meant I could understand more about the life and culture Zdenka had left behind. It made the contrast of normal life and camp life starker and more disturbing.

The title of the book comes from a tin ring given to Zdenka by her lover Arno as a symbol of their love and engagement to be married once the war was over. Sadly Arno didn't survive but the tin ring did. Zdenka took many risks to keep hold of the ring. Zdenka was recently on the Antiques Road Show and confirmed that the ring is still in her possession. I find it amazing that a piece of tin can be imbibed with so much love, hope and power. It's truly miraculous. 

I hate to say that I loved this book as it feels like I'm taking pleasure from someone else's pain. Perhaps what I mean is that I enjoyed learning about the ways different camps operated and the ways in which different people coped with what was required of them, from guards to inmates. I liked how Zdenka reflects on other peoples experience as well as her own. The sense of community created by the people in the concentration camps comes across as genuine and heart-warming but in turn makes your heart ache because we understand what happened to such a large proportion of the people. 

This book is an eye opening read that provides a wealth of first hand knowledge about one of the worlds most awful atrocities. I would recommend the book to anyone wishing to educate themselves on the Holocaust and to those looking to better understand people's behaviours, the building of communities and attitudes towards survival. It's a truly insightful and emotional story. 

Thanks for Reading,

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