Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I heard about this book from a local friend  almost a year ago; her grand daughter had passed it along to her. First published in 2005, Knopf released the paperback, 550 pages in September, 2007. Because the movie is now underway,  touted for December release, and I prefer to read a book before I see a movie, I picked it up and read it in a few evening in November.  It is a different book, told by Death personified, set in Germany WWII era, it begins in 1939, and traces the experiences of a young girl, Liesel Meminger who is adopted by her foster family after her brother dies and  her mother can not care for her.  It is one of those books known as a crossover, because it was written for  younger readers, adolescents, juniors but is being avidly read by adults, the genre of books I have found to be clearly and well written with good information and emotionally moving.  It takes a  bit of perseverance to get used to Death as a narrator in what could be a gloomy tale but what becomes historically illuminating.  Reviews compare it to Anne Frank.   This era is of great personal interst to me and having just been through a series of Holocaust lectures at the University of Wisconsin, my interest was reignited.

Leisel's foster family shelters a Jew, Max, who was previously known to her father in their basement.   Leisel who is definitely "slow" learns to read through her nightmares as her father begins to spend evenings and nights with her to soothe her when she awakens screaming. Books are not readily available and Leisel begins to still books, odd ones, those she can save from the incineration piles of the gestapo.  

Listen to Death on pg. 491, "It's probably fair to say that in all the years of Hitler's reign, no person was able to serve the Fuhrer as loyally as me.  A human doesn't  have a heart like mine.  The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time.  The consequence of this is that I'm always finding humans at their best and worst.  I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.  Still, they have one thing I envy.  Humans if nothing else have the good sense to die."

I give this a solid 4 ****