The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Chunkster Challenge (545 pages), Themed Reading Challenge (books about books), Young Adult Challenge, Notable Books Challenge
A few comments:
1. I am an ostrich. I bury my head in the sand when I'm scared. I avoid, avoid, avoid to deal with things I don't want to deal with. That's why this book took me as long as it did to read. It was put down and left for several days at a time. As beautiful as the writing was, and it was beautiful, holy cow! As beautiful as it was, I could only read a few chapters at a time. Which surprised me, because I usually devour books when I read them, speeding through like a Tasmanian Devil, staying up too late to finish a page, a chapter, the whole damn book. But I had to protect myself from this book somewhat, because of the intensity of emotion.
2. I think I am done reading Holocaust books. They are awful, depressing, and the uplifting part of any book, that is always there, is only against the background of depravity and horror that I don't like to delve into. Again, the ostrich. I saw A Beautiful Life at the theater, and it was beautiful, but I remember this horrible, frantic feeling, about halfway through as the father and son were heading to the camp: What year is this? Is it 1944? or '45? How much hope can I hope for here? Because we all know how that whole thing turned out, and there aren't many good endings when you are headed for a camp.
3. Marcus Zusak writes the most beautiful, uplifting books. There is a hope on his soul of the beauty capable in humans even in the most horrific of settings. His writing gently caresses you while reading, saying there, there, we'll get through this and you will see what you should see. Have faith in me, and the human race: we are capable of great good.
4. Death may be one of the best characters I've ever read. His perspective on humans, and his gentle caring were the best part of the book. Such a terrific narrator for life in Germany during the Holocaust.
5. I liked the divisions of the book, into ten books with little chapters within. It made it easier for me to read, (see note 1), and when I saw the significance at the end, it was even better. Again, Zusak is an amazing writer.
6. After the end of the book, go back and reread the Prologue. It is probably a good idea with most books, but by the end, the beginning made so much more sense.
7. Do we need a summary? Liesel is sent to live with foster parents in Munich at the beginning of WW2. Hans and Rosa take and love Liesel, as well as a Jewish man, Max, in their basement. Liesel touches a few characters, especially Rudy, her neighbour who dresses up like Jesse Owens and runs, and the Mayor's wife, keeper of the library, around which much of the novel revolves, and Max. Death is always around. Books and words are very important, as they should be.
8. Extra Credit Assignment: Compare Hans and Rosa to Matthew and Marilla in Anne of Green Gables.
Both take in an orphan, damaged, looking for love and support. Matthew and Hans immediately know how to love, unabashedly, the little girl thrust in to their lives. The child has an immediate connection to the Hans and Matthew. This is where the phrase 'kindred spirits' comes from. Marilla and Rosa are brisk, not showing overt displays of love, and it seems unclear what the relationship is between the Marilla/Anne and Rosa/Liesel. However, in both cases, they show their emotions less freely, but with no less passion and devotion. Their love of the girls, and Hans and Matthew, are the most touching moments of the books, because it is more unexpected.
9. War is no good. Both sides lose, everyone loses. Except Death. He does very well in wars.