Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Book Thief

Book: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Like/Don't Like: Like. Even though there are Nazis in it.

When I finished this book I had a hard time believing that my friend Amanda actually sent it to me. For two very good reasons.

1.) It is a book, albeit peripherally, about Nazis and the Holocaust. And Amanda hates books about those topics.

2.) I literally cried through the last 60 pages of it and I can not fathom why Amanda, who is also a big time cry baby, would send me such a tear jerker and NOT WARN ME ABOUT IT.

It follows Liesel, a 10 year old girl who has just been essentially orphaned and given to foster parents in Munich at the start of World War II. She quickly makes friends with the neighborhood kids and adjusts to living with her new family. But she feels restless and helpless because of the war and all the trials it brings. Through the course of the story she learns to love to read, especially from books she has stolen, and how to navigate both adolescence and the war.

Death is the narrator. As in the Grim Reaper. I thought it was a bit gimmicky at first but with death being such a real presence during wartime it became fitting and beautiful in a way. He admits to being both confused and frightened by humans - how a single moment can show the worst and the best in us. You see a lot of examples in the story of this.

The writing style was a little different. Lately in books I've been noticing the way information is given out. Some authors dump it on you and others let it drip out. This was given in bits and pieces with no regard to time line or story line. And I have to say that I liked it. You find out important information - like people dying - way in advance, long before it even happens. And not just hinting at it but outright telling you that this is what's going to happen. It was kind of fun to read something different like that.

Although fun is a relative term here. There were some funny moments and some sweet ones too. But people do die. A lot of them. And you love them all. There were a few times when I had to stop myself from wailing out loud. Even over the ones I knew were coming because Death said it would happen.

I finished the last 100 pages tonight on the couch while Katie sat at the table and finished the last 100 pages of Emma and I had a bit of reader envy - that she was reading something that didn't make her sob. But it was a fleeting envy because this is a really beautiful book. Even through all the agony of so many people suffering and dying - it was still beautifully written and a wonderful story.

I will mention one pet peeve though, and it is not exclusive to this book, it was just done often in it. It bothers me when an author will use a foreign word and then put the translation in. For example:

"Danke," I said. "Thanks."

This was done a lot and it was distracting. I know it's nitpicking, and maybe it wouldn't have bothered me so much if I didn't know a little German (although not nearly as much as I should considering how many years I studied it in school) but I feel that, if used properly, most foreign words can be understood in context. Particularly because most of the German that was used was slang. I think we all can guess the dirty words in any language. And all you have to do is watch Indian Jones to know that schnell means fast. And further more, we all know they're speaking German. Does it even need to be written?

Of course, this had no baring on the quality of the story and really it's just me being cranky. We'll blame the Nazis for that. It's a wonderful book.


Patti said...

I read several chapters of this book but eventually put it down and never picked it back up again. I guess I missed a good cry near the end!

Amanda said...

I'm glad you liked it. The reason I didn't warn you about the sobbing is that I haven't actually reaad the book yet. I'd heard it was wonderful and thought you should have a wonderful book. But I'm glad that you read it and warned me. :) I'm assuming there is a lot of Nazi stuff since you say that lots of people die. Unless of course they die from things like choking on Otter Pops. I haven't read a Nazi book for awhile, so I might give it a shot since you loved it.

Heath said...

I've been wanting to read this book--but I too try to avoid Nazis. I'm glad to hear you liked it.

Angela Noelle of Striking Keys said...

I love this book, and all you had to say about it.