Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Lifestyle - Book Review: The Storyteller, Jodi Picoult

I'll admit that while I like beautifying myself and experimenting with hair, makeup and clothes, I wouldn't describe myself as being the most girly girl there is. There's many dimensions to me that make up my personality - reading books, listening to music, exercising, travelling - and I feel like these interests should be reflected in the blog. From here on out, I'd describe myself as being more of a 'lifestyle blogger who writes about topics of importance', rather than solely a 'bargain makeup, beauty and fashion blogger'. I also wanted to make my blog a bit more broad and more accessible to men. I will be doing book reviews, travel reviews, sharing some photographs of mine, and my opinion on current affair news both in Ireland and internationally.

To start off, I'll do a very brief book review on  the most recently book I've read. I don't have a price for it as I borrowed it from the local library.

It's called The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. I've read lots of her books, and she's my favourite author by far, as she writes about controversial topics like rape and suicide but she writes about it in such an interesting way that that enables the reader to really get into the minds of the characters involved. It really gets you thinking what you would do in the situation, so it really isn't one of them mindless Fifty Shades of Shite books - you actually use your brain reading these books. As always with a Jodi Picoult book, I buy it planning to pace myself - I start reading the book in the evening time and say I'll only read for an hour or two. However, it gets me sucked in! This book was no different. I started reading it at 11pm and was up till 3am in the morning reading it from start to finish.

This book is about the Holocaust. I chose it because I have an interest in European history and was curious to know how this author would put her spin on it.

The story is told in sections by different characters. First up, we go into the mind of the character Sage  who sets the scene. She runs a bereavement support group in her local town. It's attended by different people, all connected by the same thing - the loss of a loved one. She herself attends the support group and harbors an immense guilt ever since she had a car accident while driving that killed her mother. She doesn't quite fit in with her family, so she spends most of her spare time away from the support group in her small café, where she works as a baker. She doesn't feel herself to be worthy of a fulfilled relationship, which is why she has for years been having an affair with a married man that has children.

While she is working in the café, she a man who has lived in the local community for over seventy years and is very well respected - Josef Weber - comes into the café with his small dog. He begins talking to Sage and at first, she responds because she feels sympathy on the lonely man, but the two soon become great friends. He confides in her that he needs support overcoming a difficult period in his past and Sage encourages him to join the bereavement support group. Over time, he begins to confess horrific things about his past to Sage that changes the way she thinks about him - that he is not the pillar of the local community. He explains to her that he was a Nazi who played a massive role in the massacre of millions in the concentration camps, and claims to have changed his name to Josef from Reiner Hartmann when he moved to the US after the war ended. As she is a Jew herself, she is understandably horrified, and gets in contact with Leo, head of an organisation who hunts out Nazis in the US, to see is it true. 'Josef' asks Sage to assist him in suicide, and she is considering it.

Sage is quite close to her grandmother, Minka. She has noticed Minka has a 'tattoo' on her arm but whenever she quizzes the old lady about it, she closes up and refuses to talk about it. With Leo's guidence, Minka opens up to Sage and admits that she was a Jew in a concentration camp - the same one Reiner was in. She mentions that Reiner was the soldier that murdered her best friend. She also says there was another, kind hearted soildier, who was the reason she ended up surviving the concentration camps.

Sage, consumed with inexpressible rage, agrees to assist Reiner to end his life. It is only after that he has died, that Sage finds out that all is not as it seems and what 'Reiner' admitted to her was quite possibly down to survivor's guilt. I won't spoil the story for you though!

The story is obviously quite dark and somber for the most part, and Minka's description of life in a Nazi concentration camp at times brought me to tears - it's really difficult for me to understand that evil did exist - and unfortunately does exist - in the world. Despite all that, there is some nice parts of the book - the closeness between Sage and her grandmother Minka is quite touching and through helping Minka speak about her horrific experiences, Sage finds a strength in herself that she never knew she had to change her life.

Overall, I would really recommend this book. I found it to be a very humane, warts-and-all insight into the past horrors of war - the passages described by Minka are all developed from real life stories of both concentration camp survivors and victims, so you really do get a first hand account of what really did happen. Like I mentioned, you really think 'what would I do in the situation' as the reader also is brought through Sage's mind as she battles with her moral dilemmas.

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