Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Storyteller

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
Hardback, 464 pages

Expected Publication: 26th March 2013 by Hodder & Stoughton

Shelves: adult-fiction, arc-or-review, books-i-own, comfort-novels, contemporary, cultural, death, favourites, historical, lasting-impression, read, read-in-2013, realistic-fiction, really-good, suicide, ww2
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

Sage Singer befriends an old man who's particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone's favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses…and then he confesses his darkest secret - he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage's grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.

What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who's committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren't the party who was wronged? And most of all - if Sage even considers his request - is it murder, or justice?

I will start by saying that it is very difficult for me to review this book - I often find it difficult to review my favourite books as I find it hard to truly express how much I enjoyed them. From the first page, I knew that The Storyteller would become one of my all time favourites. Jodi Picoult is definitely a favourite author of mine, yet she still manages to blow me away every single time I pick up one of her books. This one was no different.

As soon as I heard about The Storyteller, I was desperate to get my hands on a copy - I was quite literally counting down until I could get my hands on an advanced review copy. As aforementioned, I love Picoult and I also love history, particularly the two World Wars. There is something so intriguing about the Second World War and, in particular, the Holocaust. I have been interested in this period of history since I was very young, and since visiting the two Auschwitz camps a few years ago, this subject hits me harder than ever. However, this is a subject that stirs emotion in almost everyone -  you certainly don't need to have visited a death camp in order to be moved by such a huge tragedy. It is such a big risk to attempt to 'relive' the Holocaust in fiction, to write about it, to try and write realistic personal accounts of both the victims and camp leaders, but Picoult manages it and she manages it phenomenally well. I am so glad that this novel worked out so well.

For me, it is always more powerful when I read personal accounts of history, though, admittedly, I rarely read fictional accounts. Picoult, as always, has managed to create some really authentic characters in this story, which I'm very glad about. Though I'm no expert, the story read in a very realistic manner and it's clear that Picoult has done her research on the subjects mentioned. Picoult is very talented in creating characters - our four main characters in this book, Sage, Josef, Minka and Leo are all well defined and very strong. I found it easy to empathise with each character, despite their differences in their stories and emotions. It was so important to be able to connect to the characters in this book, particularly Minka and Leo, but the book certainly succeeded in making these characters relatable, despite their huge differences.

Primarily, Sage is our protagonist. She is quite an introverted young woman, who works during the night, doing her favourite activity- baking. Sage is a very multi-layered girl and she struck me as emotionally fragile - she certainly had a lot of things going on her mind already when she met Josef in the bakery one day. Josef is a man who asks Sage to assist him in dying. Josef admits to have being been a Nazi during World War Two and that is the reason why he wants to die. The relationship between Sage and Josef progressed quite quickly - Josef admitting his deepest, darkest secret quite quickly to Sage. Sage decides to investigate more into the Holocaust and, in that process, discovers that her Grandmother, Minka, had been in Auschwitz.

The main part of the book, and for me the most interesting, was the large portion that Minka narrated. We got to learn Minka and her family's story. I won't say much about Minka's story as it's something that you really need to read for yourself, but as you can imagine, her life was certainly not easy - it was almost complete devastation. Despite all of the atrocities that it was describing,  the writing was absolutely beautiful. I actually can't emphasise how impressed I was with the writing - the absolute horror was shrouded by, yet accentuated with, the most delicate descriptions - it was extremely emotive.  The hint of hope that Picoult managed to incorporate into the most heartbreaking situations was truly incredible.

I don't want to spoil the book for anyone, so I'm not going to go into the details of the story, or what happens, but trust me, it is amazing. As I've said, this is a book that an individual really has to read and absorb for themself. There are judgements to be made about the characters, particularly Josef, but it would be silly to assume everyone would judge the same - in fact, I think there will be a big variation in what readers think about the whole situation, that's another reason why this book is so interesting. Like several other Picoult books, this does have a twist at the end which may completely change the way you were looking at things. To be honest, the twist didn't surprise me as I was predicting it before the book ended. This might add a bit of impact for other readers, but for me, the book didn't need any more impact at all - it was all there in Minka's story as it was told.

Needless to say, I loved this book and I can't praise it or recommend it highly enough. I  was absolutely gripped from the first page to the very last whilst reading and I truly hope that others will feel the same way. Though I only read at the start of January this year, I believed then and I absolutely know now that this will be the best book that I read all year. 

Check out some quotes from The Storyteller!
Images taken from the Official Jodi Picoult UK Fanpage.



  1. After reading your post, I am looking forward to this. Your post is particular useful, plz keep going. Runescape accounts for sale is also cool!

  2. Wow! What a powerful review! Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite authors too and this one sounds incredible, I can't wait to read my review copy. Thanks for sharing those quotes too, I loved every one of them.

  3. I love those quotes!

  4. Great review Stephanie! I usually enjoy Jodi Picoult's books, although the last one (Handle with Care) I really didn't like. I find I have to space my reading of her books, or they can be a bit formulaic. That said, this book sounds RIGHT UP my alley -- so many interesting topics together. I love the cover as well -- very pretty. Did you make the graphics at the end of the post? I love them!


  5. I will totally read this book too, it has a great review!


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