Thursday, January 10, 2008

BOOK: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

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.


  1. I am much like you. If something is particularly worrisome, or tense, or might not turn out well, I put the book down. Even if I am loving the book, I have to put it down. This was a huge problem with A Thousand Splendid Suns. Took me weeks to get through that. Trish (who has a blog, but I don't have a link at hand) calls them "freezer books" from the Friends episode where Joey reads Little Women. This is very appropriate for me. I did love The Book Thief, but it had to be put down as well.

  2. I've got this in my library bag right now but I'm wary.

  3. I loved this book so much, but I'm very much like you in that they are hard for me to read. I'm looking forward to I Am the Messenger by Zusak in '08.

    I like the new look!

  4. Zusak rocks, rocks, and rocks some more. And your review rocked too.

  5. lisa - yes! A freezer book is the perfect way to describe it. And I've never really read one before, where I didn't want to keep reading, but I did want to.

    tink - I understand the wariness, but it is beautiful

    3M - thanks! It's snapshot tequila!

    I think I liked I Am the Messenger better, but maybe if I'd read The Book Thief first, I'd prefer it. I think it is partly his unique style that sucks you in.

    jill - thanks a bunch. More Zusak please!

  6. Glad you read this one - I agree - Zusak is AMAZING. And this book is so beautiful.

    I like your new look!

  7. i liked your review. i'm definitely reading The Book Thief this year!

  8. wendy - thanks, it was a meomrable read

    alison - thanks, I hope you enjoy it.

  9. "War is no good. Both sides lose, everyone loses. Except Death. He does very well in war"

    So true. Recently I read Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and it made me feel the same.

    I understand how you feel about Holocaust literature, I truly do. And yet I think that's one of the reasons why I read it - to keep that realization alive.

  10. nymeth - I know it is very important to keep that knowledge alive. I saw your themed reading list, and it looks excellent: I think I'd read most of them. Maybe I just need big breaks between them.

  11. Extra credit for you - so glad you compared the relationships to those in Anne of Green Gables. I didn't make that association, but I can see it now.

    I'm presenting this book to my f2f book group in March. Looking forward to the reread.

  12. Wow, great review! I haven't read this one yet, but I really should. But, like you, I've been wary of it. I'm an avoider, too - I've never been able to watch Schindler's List, for example.

  13. I loved your review. I don't feel exactly the same about Holocaust books a you do, but what you wrote makes sense. Does that make sense? Anyway... There are Holocaust books I dread to pick up, and there are others that I feel no hesitation towards at all. The Book Thief was one of the latter catebory. I read it last year and I couldn't put it down.

    While I was reading it, my boyfriend found the book and started reading it as well. We had to fight over who got to read when! He absolutely loved the book as well, even though it was completely out of his reading comfort zone.

  14. tll - Thanks. There is the right amount of foreshadowing and telling what will happen next, so your heart won't be completely broken. It's very gentle that way. And the writing is amazing.

    myrthe - thanks. I wanted to do the book justice, but it is hard to explain, and I didn't want to give much away. You made sense. They are the 'freezer books', as Lisa said.
    Read more Zusak! Have you tried I Am the Messenger? I loved it.

  15. I haven't read I am the Messenger yet, but I want to. It's on my wishlist.

  16. What a great review! Thanks. My mother-in-law will not read ANYTHING if it's sad in any way. Me, on the other hand, read way to many sad books. I've already read three Holocaust books this year, including this one, as well as two other African Holocaust books. That's in addition to A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner. It's starting to weigh me down though, I need to read something happy!


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