Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gains and Losses

My feelings during and after reading The Book Thief are difficult to express. It is excellent. I was initially concerned that a story told by Death, who describes human deaths according to the prevailing color would feel forcibly artistic or pretentious. In the end, it did not. The final words were lovely and haunting. Death's narrative bounces back and forth timewise, so you have many glimpses of events that will occur, but those events are still vague enough to be surprising. It's the story of a German girl in World War II. She's an orphan, she's poor, she's not a Nazi, and technically she's a book thief, but there's something about her thievery that doesn't feel like theft. Each theft feels like a religious experience; oftentimes it's her best way of connecting with someone she loves, and it usually feels like she's taking something that's rightfully hers.

I'm rambling. Sorry.

Liesel is an orphan, sent to live with foster parents who turn out to be quite loving, especially her father. Her three closest friends are Rudy (a boy with lemon-colored hair who loves to run), Max (the young Jewish man hiding in her basement), and the mayor's wife (a sad woman who shares her personal library). Markus Zusak claims to have based his book on tales from his parents about growing up in Germany during the war. Liesel's joys, disappointments, and profound losses do feel like real life, and like the best wartime stories, we see the worst and best humanity has to offer. There are also two illustrated books-within-the-book that are simple and moving.


Felix said...

I agree: TBT is a beautiful book, and one which looks beyond many of the usual second world war stereotypes.

Jackamo said...

Nice to see a post! I posted too! We're so in sync, dear. Nothing new about that. I am really looking forward to reading The Book Thief. I hear nothing but praise for it. Your praise rates high!!