Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Review of The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Sage Singer has built a wall around herself.  She works as a baker which allows her to work alone, at night, when she will not have to interact with anyone. She has pushed everyone, even her family, to the perimeters of her world.  She bears physical and emotional scars from a mysterious occurrence in her past.

Sage develops a friendship with an elderly man who frequents the bakery with his dog.  Josef is a beloved pillar of the community, known for volunteering to help with Little League and teaching generations of local youth, but he seems to need Sage's friendship as much as she needs his.

When Josef reveals to Sage that he was an SS officer, she begins to examine her feeling about her religion, which she has abandoned. Her grandmother, a concentration camp survivor, has never spoken of her past.  Through he grandmother, Sage attempts to learn more about a heritage she has never acknowledged.

Josef has asked Sage for a favor, and she must confront her own past as well as his as she decides what to do.  

As with all Picoult novels, the story is more deep than it might first appear and large issues are examined.  This novel is almost impossible to put down.  I highly recommend The Storyteller.

The Boy from Reactor 4 by Orest Stelmach: A Review

This is a fabulous page-turner, nail-biter, of a novel. Nadia's father, who died when she was young, remains something of a beloved enigma to her.  Because of this,  she innocently agrees to meet with an old man who claims to have known her father when he was a boy.  The man is shot to death before her eyes which begins a harrowing adventure which involves Nadia with the Russian mob, an uncle and nephew she never knew existed, and a fight for her life.

The plot twists and turns, consistently surprising the reader with believable new conflicts.  This is the sort of book that is difficult to put down.  The characters and settings are richly developed and fascinating.  I highly recommend The Boy from reactor 4.

The Darkling by R.B. Chesterton: A Review

The Darkling is a classic Gothic novel.  Mimi is a modern-day version of the governess protecting her young wards from evil beings.  She is the live-in tutor for the Henderson family, sunny golden Californians who have relocated into the local mansion and brought it back to its previous greatness.  The house, of course, has a mysterious and ominous past. When Mimi's grandmother Cora convinces the Hendersons to take in a teenage girl who is suffering from amnesia, things begin to go horribly wrong.

The novel is creepy and filled with the requisite supernatural forces.  Events keep you turning the pages to see what will happen next.  Description is rich and evocative.  However, there are a few flaws in this work.

Mimi, the protagonist, suffers from being the virginal governess of the classic Gothic novel transferred to a modern setting.  As with many mysteries lately, this is set in the recent past, before cell phones and the Internet made it more difficult to be mysterious.  Mimi vacillates between prudish behavior and naivete to cursing like a sailor and planning cold-blooded murder.  This unevenness in character is jarring.

The writing is also uneven in sports.  The novel flows beautiful until an awkward passage or turn of phrase derails the reader for a time.  In one paragraph Chesterton begins with, "My logical brain denied what could only be described as a transmogrification."  The next paragraph begins with "the inability to explain what I'd seen and the possibility that I was losing it..."  Switching from formal, almost Victorian language, to modern, sometimes vulgar language, destroys the tone of the novel.

Overall, The Darkling is a fun summer read for those who are not too attached to literary quality.

Hello, friends.  I am back after a long hiatus. I've read a lot of books in this time, but I am going to review only the last few I read.  

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