Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This is my review from when I read this book for my book club so it is a bit different from my other reviews and very long:

This was such a good book and I really enjoyed reading it! It has some different perspectives and styles from other stories that take place in Nazi Germany. I feel like writing this review with the use of many references and quotes :) I read the following online and thought I would share.

First, about how/why the author chose his perspective:

“Zusak wrote The Book Thief in response to a series of stories his mother told him of growing up in Munich during the Second World War, including that of a teenage boy giving a piece of bread to a marching Jew. In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald he said: ‘We have these images of the straight-marching lines of boys and the ‘Heil Hitlers’ and this idea that everyone in Germany was in it together. But there still were rebellious children and people who didn’t follow the rules and people who hid Jews and other people in their houses. So there’s another side to Nazi Germany.’”

Next, about chosing death as a narrator he said:

“The identity of Death was there from the beginning, and there were two turning points when it came to tone and style. The first was nine months into writing, when I went back to the beginning and wrote the first aside: ‘Here is a small fact: You are going to die.’ That gave me the tone I wanted, and by default, I had the unusual trait of cordoning off small sections for Death to whisper in the reader’s ear.
The second turning point was when I realised that Death should be afraid of humans, because he is on hand to see all of the incomprehensible things we do. It gave me the idea that he tells this story to prove to himself that humans are actually worth it. Also, the irony that Death is afraid of humans really appealed to me.”

And last about the writing style (that I called quirky in my earlier post) he explains:

“I wanted Death to view the world slightly differently to the way we do, and I liked the thought that this book would be unlike any other. I didn’t go out of my way to make it different, but again, I just recognized the ideas, asked if they fit the story, and left them in.”

Of course the subject matter of the Holocaust is very very sad. But I liked how even though Liesel was not immune to many of the horrible effects of war, her life was not completely ruined by it either. I felt sooo sad for her when she lost everyone she loved and had so little to hold on to in the end, but at least she was taken in by the Mayor’s wife, who shared her books with her and she lived a long life afterward.
One thing I liked was how the narrator “spoiled” the ending. I think I might have cried a little when death told us that Rudy was going to die young, before the book was even halfway through (on page 242) but I think it would have been a lot worse for me when Rudy died if I hadn’t already known it was coming.

Overall this book was great, and super sad. But, I didn’t feel depressed at having read it, so that’s a plus. There was enough sunlight mixed in with all the darkness that it don’t have the urge to erase the whole thing from my memory (like with some other Holocaust stories) Even though almost all of the characters had a lot of fear and sadness in their lives, and lived during a very difficult time, we got to see humor and happiness in their stories too.

I think after I read “The Standover Man” I knew for sure that I loved this book. I also really liked “The Word Shaker” They were both cute and touching.

I liked the character development of all of the main characters, and how their relationship with Liesel were expressed. I especially loved:

“A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.”
“The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy that loves you.”
“He was the crazy one who had painted himself black and defeated the world.”
“How about a kiss, Saumensch?”
“he was a giver of bread and teddy bears. He was a triple Hitler Youth athletics champion. He was her best friend. And he was a month from his death.”

“It was a Monday and they walked on a tightrope to the sun.”
“The best standover man I’ve ever known is not a man at all.”
“Often I wish this would all be over, Liesel, but then somehow you do something like walk down the basement steps with a snowman in your hands.”

“Possibly the only good to come out of these nightmares was that it brought Hans Hubermann, her new papa, into the room, to soothe her, to love her.”
“Goodbye, Papa, you saved me. You taught me to read. No one can play like you. I’ll never drink champagne. No one can play like you.”

even Mama….
“Make no mistake, the woman had a heart. She had a bigger one than people would think. There was a lot in it, stored up, high in miles of hidden shelving. Remember that she was the woman with the instrument strapped to her body in the long, moon-slit night. She was a Jew feeder without a question in the world on a man’s first night in Molching. And she was an arm reacher, deep into a mattress, to deliver a sketchbook to a teenage girl.”

and even Death….
“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”

This concludes my book report… The End.

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