There’s something deeply grating about people who dislike things because they are popular. And the irony it is not lost on me that those who jump on the ‘anti-popular’ bandwagon often look, sound and act more similar than those who prefer some popular things. But, I digress. My main point is things are (not always, but often) popular because they are good, they are done well.
This is all designed as a precursor to me telling you that I love Jodi Picoult, despite, or maybe because of, her popularity. And I know, there is nothing cool about that. But books shouldn’t be cool. They should be curl up in a cosy chair – lose the day – tell your friends about it – dream about it engaging. They should make you want to turn the page because you are so worried about what will happen to the character next. They will stop you in your tracks – in surprise, or enchantment, or pain. And Jodi Picoult does that for me.
And for millions of others. It is not for nothing that she hits the top of Bestseller lists, time and time again (and, according to Wikipedia, has sold 14 million copies of her books worldwide).
I think The Storyteller is her best book since My Sister’s Keeper (quite the feat, as she is nothing if not prolific). It tells three intertwining stories and, as is the way with Picoult, mixes fact, fiction and that grey area inbetween. Despite focussing on the tried and tested 2nd World War / concentration camp formula, it brings something new to the table, setting over a third of the action in modern day America. And it is a page turner, with a twist, as you would expect of Picoult. But also a love story, which you wouldn’t necessarily.
Of all Picoult’s novels, I found this one of the more touching. The characters and their relationships were pretty unusual, but somehow this contributed to making them feel more genuine and less trite. Also, I guess it touched me because it was close to home. My Grandma was a holocaust survivor (although never experienced a concentration camp) and the Grandmother in the book had much of her character. One quote in particular struck me:
“My grandmother lived a remarkable life. She watched her nation fall to pieces; and even when she became collateral damage, she believed in the power of the human spirit… she clung to tomorrow when she couldn’t find footing on the rock ledge of yesterday.”
But I think this book will touch most people. Try me.