On Tuesday morning, I put the rather substantial hardback copy of Jodi Picoult’s latest novel in my handbag and set off for work. This evening, I finished it. Jodi’s books are impossible to put down once you start reading them, so my commute to work was difficult to say the least. Arriving at work, hell, arriving at home, was difficult, as it meant I had to put the book down and get back to reality. But this evening, I had to get through those last few chapters. And my jaw was practically on the ground by the end of it.
The Storyteller is quite possibly one of the most hard-hitting pieces of fiction you’ll ever read. Partly narrated by Sage Singer (in true Jodi style, the story is told via multiple points of view), it tells the story of a lonely 20-something woman who befriends an elderly man who frequents her bakery. Since her mother’s death three years ago, Sage has been simply existing, going through the motions with no real purpose. Then her world is turned upside down when her new friend asks her to help him to die in penance for his Nazi war crimes.
Jodi has a real skill when it comes to making her readers understand her villain’s point of view. In normal circumstances it’s impossible to feel any kind of empathy towards someone who could commit such vile crimes but she has written characters who are so well-rounded and with such a detailed back story that you feel like you’re right there, listening to Sage recount her story (and that of her family) in person.
My bookcase currently houses 19 of Jodi’s novels, such is the power of this woman to take a controversial issue and make you reconsider your own moral standing, be it abortion, suicide, murder, religion, homosexuality… And they are so heavily researched that reading them becomes an educational experience too. Although The Storyteller isn’t based on real people, such events did happen to actual families, and I guarantee that if you told a GCSE History student to read a copy of this book, s/he would feel differently about their studies.
There are few things more engaging and compelling than losing yourself in a really well written book. But now that it’s over, I’m not quite sure what to do with myself! One thing’s for sure – I can’t wait for her next title.
Note: I want to keep my reviews spoiler free, so if you’ve read this book and want to chat about it, please post in the comments below.