Today’s summer reading recommendation comes from Alina Cincan, a former teacher, translator and interpreter with over 9 years’ experience, total language geek, avid reader, Managing Director at Inbox Translation.
Asking me to write about books and reading usually leads to lots and lots of pages of relentless ranting (the relevant type, of course), but I’ll behave and try to keep it short and sweet.
As an avid reader who devours close to 150 books a year, you can imagine it’s not easy to pick one. But after giving it a thought, I decided to talk about the latest novel from one of my favourite authors. I’ve read all of Jodi Picoult’s books and loved them. The Storyteller was no different, and by that I mean it really had an impact on me.
You know that feeling you have after you’ve read a good book? The lingering sensation that doesn’t let you pick up a new novel because you are still entrapped in the one you’ve just put down? The Storyteller is one of those books.
A dark Gothic fairy tale, a young baker with a scarred face and soul who has an affair with a married funeral director, the story of a Holocaust survivor – you may wonder how all these can be woven into the same novel. Beautifully, that’s how.
This is a book about intertwined destinies. It is a book about monsters, more about real ones hiding behind a human mask than the fantasy ones.
Sage Singer is a young baker who has chosen to work by night mainly because of a scar that covers half her face. She befriends a 95-year-old man, a former teacher of German, a pillar of the community who turns out to have plenty of skeletons in his closet. He is a former Nazi SS Guard at Auschwitz who is now looking for forgiveness and help to die from a Jew. While an atheist, Sage’s family is Jewish. Moreover, her paternal grandmother, Minka, is a Holocaust survivor, who has always been quiet about her life in the Auschwitz concentration camp and whose heart-wrenching story is central to the novel – this part will tug at your heart strings, will make you weep and feel grateful not to have lived all those horrors. Like Scheherazade, her story (the fantasy she writes about) keeps her alive, in more ways than one.
Though there isn’t a film yet based on ‘The Storyteller’ (I like to watch films inspired by books to compare), I can easily imagine one being made. Even while flipping the pages over (actually tapping my Kindle, but you get the idea), my imagination ran wild and it was like I was actually watching a film. I could see Sage’s scar, the upiór in Minka’s story, the horrors of the Holocaust.
But what this book does best is making you use all your senses – I could smell the freshly made bread baked by Minka’s father, I could taste the sweetness of the cinnamon and chocolate in the special roll he baked for his favourite daughter, I could feel the roughness of the makeshift bed in the concentration camp, I could hear the screams of the mothers whose children had been cruelly removed from their arms.
Would I recommend it? YES!!!
I’d like to share with you a quote that stuck with me:
The ones who were shot in the head left behind a mess, runnels of gray matter and foamy pink tissue, and now it was on my boot, caught in the treads, and I wondered what part of her mind that was – the power of language? Of movement? The memory of her first kiss or her favourite pet or the day she moved to the ghetto?
You can read an excerpt, listen to the author talking about the book in an interview on CNN and, quite a nice addition I’d say, find Minka’s recipes on Jodi Picoult’s website at http://www.jodipicoult.com/the-storyteller.html.
Have you read ‘The Storyteller’? Alina and I would love to hear what you think. Or maybe another of Jodi’s books? Alina also loved ‘The Pact’ and ‘My Sister’s Keeper’. Enjoy!