If I could recommend one book that everyone should read, The Storyteller would be top of that list. This gripping book left me struggling for air as I tried (and failed) to comprehend the physical and mental suffering caused during World War II.
My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Previous Reads Of A Similar Nature
I have been to a Holocaust Museum. I have read a few books based around the Holocaust (namely Anne Frank and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas). I have always read about these events from a detached perspective. It is natural with real-life events that are as harrowing as the Holocaust to assimilate information this way. Yes it happened and it was awful and people suffered. The next day, my mind has taken a different direction and the information I retained is sadly forgotten.
More Than Just A Story
That is not the case with The Storyteller. It was impossible to detach myself from the characters and story and I felt so many conflicting emotions that I found myself thinking about the Holocaust day and night. This is the sign of a truly thought-provoking book. Everyone should read this to keep the memory of this terrible time alive – to honour the strength that people showed in the concentration camps and to remember that one person (Hitler) telling you the way to save your country is to eliminate the problem (Jews) is not the solution. A prime example where a failing country put their faith in a person of power and cling to every word they say like sheep. I’m sure there are other examples of this going on today but that is another topic.
“Inside each of us in a monster; inside each of us is a saint. The real question is which one we nurture most, which one will smite the other.”
This book gives an incredible insight into the events of the holocaust. The characters are authentic, the suffering is beyond tangible and the story is heart-breaking. Though a piece of fiction, many events are based on stories from survivors and historical research. This is why it is such an essential read – this book is not fictitious, it actually happened. And it wasn’t hundreds of years ago that we can dismiss with a wave of the hand. This book will stay with me for a very long time.
Which Side Of The Fence?
The reason I love Jodi Picoult so much is the way she presents conflicting arguments with moral dilemmas. I have never read a book where my mind was physically torn. Hearing from both sides of the barbed wire fence, it was impossible to decide whether forgiveness should be granted – very much the dilemma faced by Sage throughout the book.
“Forgiving isn’t something you do for someone else. It’s something you do for yourself. It’s saying, ‘You’re not important enough to have a stranglehold on me.’ It’s saying, ‘You don’t get to trap me in the past. I am worthy of a future.”
On one hand, you have Josef Weber – a man who has admitted to being a Nazi and murdering numerous people. But the man is now 95 and wants to die. He struggles to live with the memories and believes he is being tortured with the inability to end his life. He has attempted to redeem himself over the last 50 years which has led to him being loved and respected by his peers. At 95, how can you justify convicting an old, tired man who has worked hard to become a pillar of his community?
Then we hear his story. The torture, the murders, the blatant disregard of the lives of Jews. The story is hard to accept. It is impossible to connect and associate this story to 95-year-old Weber. Does that make it morally wrong to let this man get away with his actions despite his age? He wants forgiveness and appears to be truly sorry, explaining he only ever did what was expected of him from his superiors. If he declined, he would be dead. Can his actions be put into perspective with this in mind?
Then we hear Sage’s grandmother’s story. As a young girl, she survived the terrible events of the Holocaust. She relives her terrifying tale with disturbing clarity. Every smell, sound and sight was ingrained in my mind and had me right there in the midst of the terror. The events are real. Too real. There is no sugar-coating, no exaggeration. It is this part of the story that made me question everything that was wrong with the world during this atrocious time. How could this have been allowed to happen? Did this confirm that justice needed to happen in the form of convicting Weber? What will Sage do? What would you do?
As for me… my mind is still reeling.
Purchase your copy of The Storyteller here: Amazon
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Genre: Contemporary/Historical Fiction
Pages: 528 (paperback)
About the author: Jodi Picoult is a best-selling author admired by a number of avid fans. Her books generally pose moral dilemmas and very much engage the reader to think about actions, consequences, ethics and humanity.