Tag Archives: Holocaust

What Makes a Best Seller a Best Seller? – Part 4

SPOILER ALERT!
SPOILER ALERT!

If you have not read Jodi Picoult’s “The Storyteller” stop reading now and go read the book first.

Writing a book is difficult sometimes. There are characters to develop, locations to create and describe, and of course there must be a plot. Putting all theses elements together can become a balancing act. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Jodi Picoult is no different from any other author. She has just as many obstacles if not more that the average writer because people expect great things from her based on the other books she has published. So where could she have made this story better? I’m so glad you are still here reading this series because I have a few ideas on that subject.

The first area I would change to make “The Storyteller” better is the main character. We have no vested interest in Sage. I felt her whole character was tongue in cheek.  Sage is a baker and surprise, she has one sister Pepper and one Saffron. She works at Our Daily Bread, a bakery owned by an ex-nun, Mary. All I can really say here is really?! Because of all of this mockery I don’t find Sage to be a believable character. I struggled with why Josef would choose Sage to help him when she doesn’t follow the Jewish faith.

This is a work by Israeli artist, Menashe Kadishman at The Jewish Museum in Berlin. It's called "Shalekhet" or "Fallen Leaves". There are over 10,000 faces covering the floor. He has dedicated them to the innocent victims of war and violence. When these faces are walked on they moan in different tones.

This is a work by Israeli artist, Menashe Kadishman at The Jewish Museum in Berlin. It’s called “Shalekhet” or “Fallen Leaves”. There are over 10,000 faces covering the floor. He has dedicated them to the innocent victims of war and violence. When these faces are walked on they moan in different tones.

To me a more believable, more interesting story would have Minka as the main character. Minka is Sage’s grandmother, she’s Jewish and a Holocaust survivor. If Minka was the baker and Josef asked her to help him wow would this book have exploded. The internal struggle Minka could have had with this would have been amazing. Would Minka chose to take revenge for her friend, Darija, and help Josef end his life. What would have happened if Minka found out Josef was the same Hauptscharfuhrer that saved her life several times? Could she have still helped Josef in his mission? Sage didn’t have any power to forgive Josef for his crimes, Minka did. This is the story I wanted to read, this is not the story I read. I’m disappointed because it could have been so much better.

The story Minka wrote on the backs of the pictures she stole from Kanada is woven throughout the book. It was differentiated by using different fonts and quite frankly I was more lost trying to figure out how this vampire story fit in with everything else that it almost made me stop reading. I think it would have been ok to leave the parts in where Hauptscharfuhrer wants to know how it ends and the little snippets here and there. The rest of the story that was in a different font and separated out needs to be added at the end of the book so people could enjoy the story Minka wrote by reading it all at one time. We would still see the parallels between the story and what was happening in the ghetto and concentration camps. By spreading it out, the story lost its flow.

The last issue I had with “The Storyteller” is at the end when Sage covers up Minka’s tattooed number on her arm. When Sage reached in the coffin I thought for sure she was going to roll Minka’s sleeve up in honor of her grandmother’s strength and what she had been through. It didn’t need to be a secret anymore. I almost threw the book across the room when out came the make-up to cover up Minka’s number. Why in the world would Sage cover up Minka’s tattoo?

As you can see there could have been a completely different story here if someone would have taken the time to edit this book properly and look for a way to make this story better.

We all read books differently, I discussed that in part one of this series. Based on that, who then decides if a book is good or not? What makes a best seller? An authors name? A good story line with developed characters that make you think?

I am open to thoughts here because I’m convinced “The Storyteller” became a best seller because of an author’s name, and I don’t like that.

This is a monument in Krakow, Poland. The chairs symbolize the furniture the Jews were forced to leave behind as the entered the trains. They are facing different directions because the people were scattered. Each chair faces the direction of a concentration camp, their final destination.

This is a monument in Krakow, Poland. The chairs symbolize the furniture the Jews were forced to leave behind as the entered the trains. They are facing different directions because the people were scattered. Each chair faces the direction of a concentration camp, their final destination.

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What Makes a Best Seller a Best Seller? – Part 3

SPOILER ALERT!
SPOILER ALERT!

If you have not read Jodi Picoult’s “The Storyteller” stop reading and go read the book. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s experience.

I am going to touch on what I think Jodi Picoult did right in “The Storyteller”. In my opinion I felt she used descriptive words well. I

could see Mary’s garden and the way Mary rigged herself up to paint her murals. I could see Hauptscharfuhrer’s office that Minka worked in at Auschwitz, and I felt like I had stopped for a coffee at Our Daily Bread. The one part she nailed, which is my favorite part of the book, is the scene where the little girl is instructed by her mother to close her eyes and sing without stopping. The girl sings and doesn’t quit. Everyone around her is shot and piled around her and she is still singing. This scene is written so vividly it’s haunting. Yes, I know it’s horrible that this part is my favorite, but it’s my favorite because it’s written well. I can hear it and see it play out in my mind and I wasn’t there. Perhaps I can hear this better than other readers because I’ve stood in among the redwoods where this happened. If you only take one thing away from this four-part series let it be to describe the scenes in your manuscript so the reader experiences it, not just reads it. Even though I saw it coming, I liked when Sage found Minka’s story written on the backs of the pictures in Josef’s bedside table and I’m glad she took them.

The other area Jodi Picoult did right was to get people talking. This story spurs discussion about right vs. wrong, guilt vs. remorse, and even revenge with everyone that reads it.

I noticed these gold squares in the sidewalks in front of houses all over Berlin that had Jewish people that lived there. Each square contains their name, which camp they were sent to along with the day they were murdered on it.

I noticed these gold squares in the sidewalks in front of houses all over Berlin that had Jewish people who lived there. Each square has their name, which camp they were sent to along with the day they were murdered, if it is known, on it.

A sign of a good book is that it creates  a stir and starts discussions. This book has definately started discussions and earned some stares from eavesdroppers around those discussions. If you have read “The Storyteller”, what do you think was done well and why?

In the fourth and last part of this series I will outline what I think could be done differently to make this story better.

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What Makes a Best Seller a Best Seller? – Part 2

SPOILER ALERT!
SPOILER ALERT!

If you have not read Jodi Picoult’s “The Storyteller” stop reading now and go read the book first.

This is the second part in a four-part series based on my opinion in where “The Storyteller” went wrong. Yes, I know this is a work of fiction, but it’s based on a historical event. Jodi Picoult admits the idea for this book came from Simon Wiesenthal’s “The Sunflower”; where a Nazi soldier is dying in a camp and asks for forgiveness from a Jew for his acts against Jews. The similarities to other works didn’t stop there. In “The Storyteller”, the employer of children from the ghetto locks the children in the office for the night on the night that the children in the ghetto were to be murdered. This act saves several children including Minka. This scene is strangely similar to “Schindler’s List”. In “The Storyteller”, Minka and her best friend Darija are dancing and a Nazi comes along, pauses and offers Darija his business card for dance lessons. This scene has “The Pianist” written all over it. The Lodz Ghetto seems like a cakewalk and it certainly wasn’t. The barracks within Auschwitz were not an all for one, one for all atmosphere and if you stole something while sorting belongings there wasn’t a second chance, you were shot. The Jewish customs weren’t completely correct either. Through much of the book we are left to wonder about how Sage got her scar. We don’t find this out until the end. Too much was left to be resolved at the end.

I know fiction doesn’t need to be factual. However, I believe if you are going to write a story based on an actual event in history, the facts should be portrayed correctly. Jodi Picoult borrowed, I’m using that turn loosely, themes from other books on the same topic. In my opinion that compromises her credibility  for this story. This is the first book I’ve read from this author and I’m disappointed. I have nothing against Jodi Picoult, I just wish this book was more thought out and presented differently and better than it is. I know I missed other parts that didn’t work well, but I chose to focus on the parts that irritated me the most. If you’ve read “The Storyteller” what part bothered you and why?

The next part in this series will be about what I think went right.

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What Makes a Best Seller a Best Seller? – Part 1

I’m going out on a limb here to say I cannot believe Jodi Picoult’s “The Storyteller” is a best seller. I know this opinion is not a popular one if you look at her reviews on Amazon. “The Storyteller” is currently #1 on New York Time’s best seller list for hardcover fiction. I read this book and I’m surprised it is doing as well as it is. I physically cringed as I read reviews proclaiming “The Storyteller” is the best book ever. I am going to break my thoughts up into 4 smaller blogs (mainly because everyone is so busy and I like reading shorter blogs).

Let me first tell you where I get my viewpoint on this book. I studied the aftermath of WWII and the holocaust for a semester and at the end of the semester we went to Germany and Poland for 2 weeks. During those 2 weeks we stood in the redwood forests in Poland where Jews were murdered, we were led through Auschwitz-Birkenau by a man who survived Auschwitz as a child, we stood in the gas chambers and saw the scratches in the concrete from fingernails as people tried to claw themselves out, we walked through the ghettos and saw evidence of what transpired there not so long ago. There is still a presence there that is difficult to describe. It gives me chills to this day.

Arbeit Macht Frei translated means work shall set you free.

Arbeit Macht Frei translated means work shall set you free.

I read “The Storyteller” for a book club. I thought it sounded interesting as I have vast knowledge on the subject, however, I do not claim I’m an expert. Some of my book club went and saw Jodi Picoult at a reading and she spoke about how it became the book it is. She interviewed several holocaust survivors and a few other people. She spent 9 months doing research and writing this book. She said something that took me off guard and aback. She mentioned she was a cash cow and couldn’t go wrong. And that, my friend, is where she initially went wrong. In my opinion she is banking on her name to sell books. I got the feeling she thinks she can do some research and throw something together and call it good. People will buy it because her name is on it. Mind you, I know it isn’t easy to research and write a book, but if you are going to take on a topic like the holocaust you had better invest your time in extensive research and get it right. I know it’s not always possible to travel to the locations you write about. However, in this case, she should have traveled to Poland to experience Auschwitz before she wrote this book. She tweeted a couple of hours ago that her publisher took her to Auschwitz TODAY! “The Storyteller” was released February 26, 2013. She missed the mark here. I am going to walk you through the different areas in this book I think went wrong, areas she got right, and what she could have done to make it better; to give the reader the emotional draw that should have been there. Each person reads a book differently based on personal beliefs, experiences, and knowledge base. Yes, people can come to the same conclusion that a book is fabulous or horrid, but their reasons for making that claim differs based on what they personally brought to the table. Stop back to read the rest of the four-part series and if you have read the book, put your own two cents in.

I took this photo on my trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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