Mosman Readers

"Book lovers never go to bed alone"

Review by Cynthia Haskell, a member to the Tuesday Evening Book Club.

Published in 2013, The Storyteller is the 23rd novel by Jodi Picoult. The premise for most of Jodi’s books is a controversial issue, which often confronts her characters with moral or ethical dilemmas that can impact on their personal lives and emotions. For this reason she often uses the literary device of multiple narrators, allowing her to tell the story from different persons’ points of view. Cooking and baking often feature in her novels too. Yet, there is always a twist at the end of her tales. The Storyteller fits this model. It centres round the theme of the Holocaust, chocolate cinnamon rolls and moral choices, and certainly has a twist at the end.

The main protagonist is Sage Singer, a female baker, a loner, scarred both physically and emotionally. She befriends an old man, Josef Weber, whom she meets at a grief group. He is a respected, retired teacher and Little League coach. One day he asks Sage for a favour: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses. He then confesses his darkest secret: he deserves to die because he was a Nazi SS guard. Sage's grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. Can someone who has committed truly heinous acts ever atone with subsequent good behaviour? Do you dob him in to the authorities? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you were not the injured party? And, if Sage even considers the request, is it revenge…or justice? In true keeping with traditional story telling, does the protagonist, in this case, Sage, undergo a transformation? Read the book to find out.

Not usually a Jodi Picoult fan, I found this book intriguing and well-written, if a teensy bit clumsy at times. It was not clear that another narrator had taken up the story near the beginning of the book. I really believed there was a continuity problem. In addition to other narrators, there is also a story within a story, written in italics (a rather awkward device), which is an analogy for the Nazi regime although it could just as well be an allegory for any cruel, repressive regime today. In the edition I read, sometimes the name of the character taking over the narration was indicated at the head of the section, and sometimes a different font was used, again a rather inelegant tool. Notwithstanding this, I commend the book to you.

 

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