Richard and Judy Review: The Storyteller – Jodi Picoult

Richard and Judy Review: The Storyteller – Jodi Picoult

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“Minka, Sage’s grandmother and a Holocaust survivor, has never talked about her own terrible experiences, and as the book unfolds so does Minka’s own tragic story.”

Richard’s review

Picoult says she got the idea for The Storyteller from Simon Wiesenthal, the Nazi-hunter. In his own book, The Sunflower, Wiesenthal writes about his days in a German concentration camp. There, he was summoned to the death bed of an SS man who wanted to confess his guilt and be forgiven by a Jew.

As Judy writes, Picoult is never afraid of tackling a profound moral challenge, and she was inspired by Wiesenthal to write a story about what would happen if the same desperate request were to be made decades later to a Jewish concentration camp prisoner’s granddaughter. Minka, Sage’s grandmother and a Holocaust survivor, has never talked about her own terrible experiences, and as the book unfolds so does Minka’s own tragic story. As Sage listens, she rediscovers the importance of her Jewish background and becomes closer to her religion.

There is another story running alongside Sage’s; a wonderful allegory about a young girl who falls in love with a vampire in a European village long, long ago. It is very delicately written and actually quite enchanting – like a Grimm’s fairy tale. Like so much of the rest of this wonderful novel, it is rich in symbolism. The nature of evil is examined in depth, and the scar on Sage’s face also represents hidden wounds and trauma.

Similarly, the obsession with bread-baking in both storyline symbolises wholesome goodness, which can, perhaps, overcome evil and despair.

Will Sage grant Josef Webber, now in his 90s, the forgiveness and absolution he so craves? Picoult’s final judgement leaves many questions, but believe me – it is truly faultless.

“Picoult has created a special niche for herself in publishing. She takes a seriously troubling ethical dilemma and spins a terrific story out of it.”

Judy’s review

Jody Picoult is a publishing phenomenon. Every book she writes is awesomely researched and snappily written. And also a best seller. So Picoult is a formidable storyteller herself, and this latest novel is as masterly as all her others.

Picoult has created a special niche for herself in publishing. She takes a seriously troubling ethical dilemma and spins a terrific story out of it. Thus, in The Storyteller, she looks at the Holocaust from the viewpoint if a modern young woman living in America. Sage Singer is Jewish, but determinedly non-religious. She is emotionally in hiding from some unexplained incident in her past that has left her with an unsightly facial scar.

As a result, Sage is hugely self-conscious and becomes a recluse, sleeping by day and working alone at night in a bakery, where she makes beautiful different breads. In fact, the description of the bread is so vivid that the reader can almost smell and taste it.

But she is also grieving for the death of her mother, and visits a weekly group for bereavement counselling. There, she meets Josef Webber, a man old enough to be her grandfather. He talks to no-one else in the group, but slowly opens up to Sage. He eventually tells her the reason for his own grief – an evil secret he has kept for sixty years.

It soon becomes obvious why Webber has singled out Sage. His dreadful secret concerns her own heritage and past, and what he seeks from her is redemption. This is a gripping, tautly-written novel, unputdownable as it unravels Sage’s own tortured family history.

Press reviews

Here are a selection of the reviews for The Storyteller

“A powerful and unexpected climax”

Good Housekeeping

“Jodi Picoult’s latest book takes readers on a harrowing, unforgettable journey”

Miami Herald

“This is as harrowing as it is readable with powerful scenes in Auschwitz”

Independent