I’ve read a lot of books by Jodi Picoult and whilst I’ve always enjoyed them, like most things some are better than others. This was definitely one of the best. There are three main characters, the young baker Sage who lost her parents at an early age, her grandmother Minka who was a holocaust survivor and Sage’s new friend Josef. Early on in the story Josef is revealed as previously having been an SS guard at Auschwitz. The three stories intertwine and we find out the background of all three characters not only through flashback and interviews but also a fantasy tale that is told throughout.
It’s a difficult book to review as it almost seems wrong to say I enjoyed it bearing in mind the subject matter, but I couldn’t put it down. It took a little time for me to get into it, which can often be simply the fact that there were a large number of pages and it’s a big hardback novel. However once I became engrossed I didn’t stop.
The writing was good as always and I enjoy the way that Jodi Picoult takes difficult emotive subjects and writes novels that make you question your views. There is no denying that the Holocaust was one of the worst atrocities to ever happen and this novel goes some way to giving the reader an impression of the despair and hopelessness that the victims must have felt. However as with all of her novels there is another side, and in The Storyteller you get introduced to a guard whose job was to enforce some of the most hideous punishments to the victims during this time. He is now living in America, but is unable to escape the memory and guilt of what he has done.
Whilst this is obviously fiction the details of life within the camp are truly horrifying and the added element of the SS guards and their background gives an unusual aspect to a story, which shows that nothing is quite as black and white as it seems. This is not a history text book but it is a very powerful novel that will make you remember and question how something like this could happen, and how easily people get swayed by propaganda and ignorance. This is definitely one of Jodi Picoult’s best.