The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, p264
Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite writers. For years I stayed away from her fiction, thinking that being ‘commercial’ (you’ll find her everywhere from Esso stations to ASDA supermarkets) meant poor fiction, two dimensional characters, sloppy writing. Picoult breaks the mould of commercial fiction. She is hugely popular, she reaches a massive audience, but she writes well, really well. Every year, she plunges herself into a topics that really matter to us today, huge ethical dilemmas from organ donation to sexual identity to, as in The Storyteller, war crimes. This issue based fiction is what she is known for. What I love most about her though is her commitment to character. She always writes from multiple-points of view, one of my favourite techniques, and she gets into the heads better than any writer I know. In The Storyteller, where she writes about the Second World War and how it still haunts people today, this approach was more important than ever.
I am half German and half-English and although I have lived in England since I was five and am, by most, considered to be ‘very English’, I know that a big part of my history lies on the continent. Although I live with the guilt of the German nation, I am also proud of those Germans, including many of my relatives, who did come to see the truth, who responded to their consciences and behaved with courage, often sacrificing their lives to challenge the wrong they witnessed.
I have said before that for me, fiction goes deeper than any other art form in building empathy and in communicating the complexity of the human condition. In her latest book, Jodi Picoult has created characters that show all the nuances of courage and cowardice, of goodness and evil. She refuses to succumb to easy narratives or to black and white views. For this reason alone her fiction is important and deserves to be read.