Jodi Picoult’s latest novel, The Storyteller, is wonderful. It is a poignant and compelling book that will absorb the reader from start to finish. However, the story is also harrowing at times when it enters into the cruel reality of the Holocaust.
As with all Jodi Picoult’s books, this is a well crafted novel that tells different stories from different times. The link is the main character, Sage Singer, who, at the start of the book, is a deeply troubled young woman. Since the death of her mother, she has been attending a weekly grief therapy group where she meets Josef Weber, a ninety five year old man mourning the death of his wife. All is not what it first appears with Josef though as Sage finds out when he asks her to help him die. He is not an ill man though; but a former Nazi who feels that he should be dead and that such a death should be at the hands of a Jew. However, instead of going along with his wishes, Sage contacts the Department of Justice and ultimately meets up with Leo Stein, a Nazi hunter whose job involves bringing Nazis to justice. Although, at first, he is not sure whether to believe Sage’s story, she convinces him to Josef, whose real name is Reiner Hartmann, is telling the truth. Can Sage provide enough evidence to help Leo bring about a conviction? And, can she do so, without having to involve her frail grandmother, Minka, one of the survivors of the Holocaust?
The characters are very real and complex. Sage, the main character, is very appealing and it is easy to sympathise with her as she struggles to come to term with her mother’s death and how she feels for blame. She is a character who thinks very little of herself even though there is no need for her to feel this way. The people, who care about her, worry that her sense of worthlessness leads her to make poor decisions. Will she make the right decision though when faced with what Josef Weber is asking her to do?
The Storyteller is a wonderful book and probably ranks amongst Jodi Picoult’s best. However, the subject matter is harrowing and at times, the detail of Sage’s mother’s life in the concentration camp was a little too much to bear. There are also many moral issues raised in the novel. It’s about apportioning guilt and being brave enough to do the right thing. It’s also about forgiveness and if it is possible to forgive crimes as heinous as those committed by the Nazis.
I found The Storyteller to be a compelling read from start to finish. It’s not the sort of book that brings enjoyment because of the nature of the story, but it is an emotionally satisfying read.
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
Published by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, March 2013.
With thanks to the publishers for sending a review copy.
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