Top positive review
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Her best yet
on 16 March 2013
I've been a fan of Jodi Picoult's writing ever since I first read My Sister's Keeper back in 2005 (I think), but I have to admit that her most recent books haven't excited me in quite the same way and I was beginning to worry that her familiar format was running out of steam. However, her latest novel `The Storyteller' marks an exciting change of direction and I loved it.
Well perhaps `loved' is the wrong word to use given the subject matter, it's certainly a harrowing and shocking story at times. The first part of the novel centres on Sage Singer, a reclusive young woman who hides herself away from the world due to a disfiguring facial scar. Sage works nights in a bakery and, apart from minimal contact with her co-workers, her only other interaction with the outside world is through the grief counselling group she attends to help her come to terms with the death of her mother three years earlier. It's through this group that she meets Josef Weber, an elderly man of German extraction who inveigles his way into her life and chooses her as his confidant when he decides to unburden himself of a shocking secret which he has kept buried for 60 years.
Josef's revelation and the request he makes of her as a result cause Sage to examine her own conscience and look deep into her family history. What follows is the tale of one woman (her grandmother Minka) who was a survivor of the death camps at Auschwitz. The middle section of the book is devoted to Minka's story. I don't think it matters how many accounts of the holocaust one reads, fictional or real, the true horror of what went on is impossible to comprehend. Picoult certainly doesn't pull any punches which makes for difficult reading at times, but Minka's determination to survive make it utterly compelling.
Woven into the storyline are excerpts from a dark fairy tale written by Minka, which comes to have a central role in her survival. If I'd known in advance that it involved teen vampires I'd probably have run a mile, but trust me, somehow it works!
It's a story of survival and heroism, unimaginable evil and the search for redemption. There's a moral dilemma at the heart of the book, as there so often is with Picoult, but this one is on a much more epic scale. There's lots about this book which should have annoyed me (and has done in previous Picoult novels) - the cutesy character names and quirky habits (eg the barista in the bakery who only speaks in haikus), and the little life-affirming homilies which she likes to throw in at the end of chapters (".. there are some weeds that are just as beautiful as flowers", "Because in that terrible wonderful moment, I was the person everyone wanted to be... " that sort of thing). However, in the overall context of this memorable and emotionally harrowing book, they didn't bother me in the slightest. This is Picoult's best novel yet and I'd urge anyone who has dismissed her books in the past as `not for me' to try this one; hopefully you'll be as impressed as I was.