Review: The Storyteller

08:17 Cilla P 2 Comments

Title: The Storyteller
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Source: Kinokuniya, Singapore/my aunt's bookshelf
Synopsis: 

For seventy years, Josef Weber has been hiding in plain sight. He is a pillar of his local community. He is also a murderer.

When Josef decides to confess, it is to Sage Singer, a young woman who trusts him as her friend. What she hears shatters everything she thought she knew and believed. As Sage uncovers the truth from the darkest horrors of war, she must follow a twisting trail between terror and mercy, betrayal and forgiveness, love -- and revenge.

Review: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

"Power isn't about doing something terrible to someone who's weaker than you, Reiner. It's having the strength to do something terrible, and choosing not to."

This was a true-to-form Picoult novel. It was emotionally exhausting to read, but I couldn't put it down even when I started tearing up. It's probably impossible to not feel at least horrified given the first person accounts of the Holocaust, and Picoult didn't hold back the punches when it came to the brutality. If you start to wonder how anyone - so many people, in fact - could dehumanise someone else without flinching, you have Josef's side of the story to illustrate what's been called the banality of evil. It doesn't necessarily take a monster to keep the wheels of a killing machine going, just men convinced they were doing the right thing. I liked that we get the shades of grey too; that not all Jews were good and not all Germans were terrible.

It is to Picoult's credit that there was still some light moments in a book about such atrocities. Although each of the main characters - Sage, Josef, and Sage's grandmother - were understandably heavy with their own tragedies, the minor characters populating the present provided some moments of humour. They were a relief to be around. I have mixed feelings about Josef, as you would with a guy who seemed to be a pillar of the community but turned out to have been a Nazi, I suppose. Sage's grandmother is admirable in her strengths, I adore Leo, and though I found Sage too deep in her pity party at first, I grew to sympathise with her. I'm uncertain about the romantic aspect of the book though. At one point there was a comment about Sage's tan legs and I had to wonder where a baker who worked all night and slept all day had the time to get tanned.

To me, there were two storytellers in this book and three stories. I loved the way each of them were wrapped up (or not), and how I'm left with so many questions. Which one is more important: justice or mercy? How can you decide that someone deserves forgiveness? How is it that genocide is still happening around the world?

All in all, The Storyteller has made me think and feel a lot of different things, and for that, this is among my favourites of Picoult's novels.

2 comments:

  1. I have to admit I haven't been a fan of her most recent novels but this sounds like the old picoult! Ill have to give this a go even if it is a tear jerker!

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    Replies
    1. I haven't been a fan of her most recent work either, but this one was really fabulous. I look forward to hearing your thoughts when you've read it!

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