book reviewed live on bookshow by Babs Simpson 4th July 2013
This is one of the most extraordinary and most memorable books I've ever read.
It's about Sage, a Jewish girl with a scar on her face that she's far more conscious of than anyone else. She works nights as a baker and keeps herself remote from most people but she does become friendly with an old German man, Josef Reiner, who is a local hero, devoting all his time to helping his neighbours and their families. Then devastatingly, Josef confesses to her that he was an officer in the SS at Auschwitz and he wants her, as a Jew, to forgive him for what he did there, before helping him to die.
Then there's Minka, Sage's adored grandmother, who has a number tattooed on her wrist but who will never speak of her experiences in a concentration camp. Sage decides she must expose Josef as a Nazi was criminal and eventually is put in touch with the right department. Leo is on the case very quickly hoping to uncover enough evidence to warrant Josef's extradition and future trial for his war crimes.
The most extraordinary part of the book comes with Minka's story of her life and its inexorable downward journey from a young, happy girl in a loving family in a comfortable home in Lodz in Poland to shocking life in the ghetto, then to the unimaginable ghastliness of Auschwitz. Daily life in the camp is incredibly convincingly described with all its dreadful horror, suffering and above all its overwhelming fear, the like of which we cannot possibly comprehend. And shining above everything is the extraordinary ability of the human spirit to endure against overwhelming odds.
Jodi Picoult has written an amazing story that is absolutely unputdownable and totally memorable. It should be read by everyone.