Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Books That Blow My Mind into a New Hairdo: 1

OK, putting on my Librarian Hat right now, I have to tell you about a young adult novel called The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I read quite a lot of kids' and young adult fiction because I enjoy it and because I like to be able to recommend books to kids/adults with some experience. Let me just say, I've been inspired to be more sparse/selective with my words lately, taking a cue from some other bloggers out there (such as a new favorite, Beauty That Moves). But I just can't help it, I am compelled to tell you about this astonishing book.

Here's what I don't like about the Post-Modern Novel (spanning all age ranges):
  • Gratuitous and titillating violence
  • Endings with no redemption
  • Anything involving child-rape scenes, child shipwreck survivors who go cannibal, etc.
That being said, this book is set in Nazi Germany, is narrated by Death, and begins with Liesel (the main character) going to a foster home with her brother who literally expires on the train, before her eyes. Dark, right? Yeah, admittedly a very tough beginning and it took me 3 tries to actually get beyond it. But I tried again at the high praise of a library patron who was raving (as I now find myself) about the book.

What's incredible here in this story is that Zusak conveys such a depth of feeling for all of the characters, even the ones we start out thinking we don't like. It's about being regular people in the midst of extremely challenging times. For Liesel, these challenges include being a poor, pre-adolescent, child of Nazi Germany, who has recently lost her birth family. It's about the small and large ways that we hold onto our humanity. It's about growing up and learning to love. It's about Death, who is actually quite tender at times and quite overworked at the telling of the story.

Yup, this story made me cry (like The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger), because you could feel the tragedy coming, and Death even gives you a heads up once or twice. But it also made me laugh. I marveled at the way Zusak used language and description, and how he went about piecing the story together. So many times I would reread sentences to get their flavor completely.

I am pretty bereft without the characters and it's been three days now since I finished the book. So I picked it back up and am reading it aloud to Jake, my husband, at night while he does the dishes.

1 comment:

  1. I liked this book, too. I chose to read it after reading I Am the Messenger, also by Zusak. I wasn't blown away by The Book Thief, but it has had a lasting impact. I really admired Liesel and thought she was a wonderful character. And the scene where Max boxes with Hitler in the basement was really powerful to me.