Sunday, June 20, 2010

My heart was stolen by The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Through the sometimes scary nights of my childhood a book kept me company and helped me fend off bad dreams.  I was grateful to my friends Caddie Woodlawn and Jupiter Jones and the words that brought me comfort and sleep. My troubles were nothing compared to those of Liesel Meminger and her books take on a whole new importance in "The Book Thief by Markus Zusak."

The Book Thief
Markus Zusak uses unorthodox writing, characters and perspective to bring to life (or should I say death) the story of a young girl growing up in Germany during WWII.  There is much, much to this tale:

While Death may be the narrator and he collects souls along the way this is a story about living.
This is a story about getting through anyway you can.  Momma Rosa curses at a hard world while Pappa bows and lets life flow over him and he plays the accordion.  Liesel uses her books and words to help keep the nightmares at bay and Max wipes away the ugly to create something new and loving.
This is a story about acceptance but also about fighting when you can't do anything else.
This story is about love and hate.
This is the story of the power of words to heal, to love, to hate and to destroy.

This is not an easy book to read on several levels. In fact the first 20 pages are so strange in style I almost put the book down.  The writing style is very challenging.  Death goes on tangents and in the middle of a thought or description a big bold block of words tells you what he is thinking or wondering about something else.  It was really distracting.  I never did get completely used to it and sometimes I tried skipping the interjections to only go back and read them because I felt I should.  The subject matter is hard and depressing.  I am not really a fan of tragedy.  My life tends to be dramatic enough without the addition of fictional crises that end badly.
This book is sold as a young adult novel for 9th grade and above but don't let that fool you.  This is an adult novel.  Once into the story I was held by the tension and pace of this girl's will to make sense of the senseless.  I turned the pages quickly to find out what they were going to do with Max. I frowned with anger as they marched the Jews through the street to their deaths and no one spoke up.  I smiled and cried when Liesel gets her book back in the end.
There is much to this story and it feels relevant to our times with fears of terrorists and economic collapse always close.  People really just want to get by and usually do even in the worst of times and sometimes a good book can make all the difference in the world.
Read this book.

Other books by Markus Zusak:

Getting The Girl

Fighting Ruben Wolfe

Wilde Hunde


 Der Joker

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