Author: Jodi Picoult
First Line: My father trusted me with the details of his death.
Fiction is like that, once it is released into the world: contagious, persistent. Like the contents of Pandora's box, a story that's freely given can't be contained anymore. It becomes infection, spreading from the person who created it to the person who listens, and passes it on.
It's been awhile since I read any Jodi Picoult novels, a realisation that surprised me as I never fail to enjoy them. 'Enjoy', however, is a word that I find so hard to use in reference to this particular novel.
Following her trademark move of picking hot button issue around which to revolve her story (capital punishment, organ donation, religion), The Storyteller introduces the character of Jozeb Weber, a more-than-model citizen in his nineties who, after befriending Sage, young local baker, confesses to being a Nazi soldier during World War II. What's more, he is asking Sage, the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, to forgive him before helping him die. No small ask.
The Storyteller is a layered, multi-generational story, weaving in the narrative voices of Jozef, Sage, her grandmother Minka, and Leo, the DOJ attorney from whom Sage is seeking counsel. The reader experiences the atrocities of WWII and life (and death) at Auschwitz, not only through the eyes of Minka, a then nineteen year old girl, but also through the eyes of the Jozef, a high ranking the Nazi officer at Auschwitz. These overlapping stories are, in turn, heart wrenching and sickening, tear inducing and angering. And through it all you cannot help but feel for Sage and the role she must play in drawing out these stories and finding herself in a position to pass judgement.
I make no claims to be a WWII historian, nor do I descend from family on either side of the war. I say this because I am aware that books dealing with narrative voices from the holocaust often provoke strong reactions in those with real life connections to events. I read this from a point of view of interest and as such, found the book to be a compelling and emotional read. There were points in the book that I had to put it down and walk away because it had upset me so.
I would have to say this this is one of Picoult's best works. While I find all of her novels moving, The Storyteller, undoubtedly because of the subject matter, carried a weight that I was not expecting when I started it. 5/5
Read if you enjoyed:
- The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
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