Thursday, August 09, 2007

look at all the pretty colours

So here's yet another World War II book, yet another Holocaust book, yet another young adult book (though i'm not sure the classification is particularly apt in this case~it was originally published in the author's native Australia as an adult novel...), and yet another book i have to consider for that committee thing...

this one i've been hearing about for quite some time because my friend has been raving about how good it is and how we really should choose this one...

He's been bringing out the oppositional child in me.

Just a somehow i didn't want to read it, recommend it just because he thought so very highly of it...
but it really is a wonderful book (so now i'm almost finding myself opposing myself...)

Markus Zusak is a poet. I'm not sure if he calls himself that, but he is an artist when it comes to wordcrafting. The Book Thief is an exquisite, engrossing, and evocative book of poetry that flows as only a novel can. And Zusak is unafraid to use words in new ways (turning adjectives into adverbs, adverbs into adjectives, or just creating new forms of words) that make his meaning absolutely clear without sounding overly clever. Only a true sculptor can do that (it creates absolute envy at the touch~in addition to the shivers it leaves behind.) And this is a book about words. The power of words to create worlds. To destroy worlds. To save lives.

"It's the story of one of those perpetual survivors--an expert at being left behind.

It’s just a small story really about, among other things:

*A girl

*Some words

*An accordionist

*Some fanatical Germans

*A Jewish fist fighter

*And quite a lot of thievery”

(and i do so love it when chapters are given titles and contents are hinted at, as they are in this book)

The book thief is a young girl named Liesel Meminger growing up as a foster child in a poor, tough town just outside Munich, at the height of Hitler's Germany. From the time he took her younger brother on the train taking them to their new foster home on the rather misappropriately named Himmell (Heaven) Street, Death (the narrator of this tome), became fascinated with Liesel. The Grim Reaper (not so grim after all) found himself distracted by this living, breathing girl though he had much, much work to do (and a very, very harsh taskmaster) at this particular point in history, and knew he shouldn't let himself be distracted by such human concerns.

There are so many things that could be made maudlin in this novel. And they never are. There are so many tragic paths that could be taken that are avoided (though many aren't~and it truly is a heartbreaking work). But this is such a book of strength. And of quiet, unflinching, brutal grace.

This is not "just another" Holocaust book, it is a tale, tightly focused on the individual German citizens who did not blindly follow but at the same time felt trapped in their fate, and of one girl who did the best she could to hang on to the words she struggled to learn and to love (and learned to hate as well); and the people she learned to love; and the only life she had as one she had to love (see where the wordcrafting envy comes in???)...

Liesel is not a martyr and she isn't exactly a hero. She is real.

Although Death's narration is born of a personality and necessity removed from both the wonder and horror of humanity, his voice is filled with an appreciation for both. An amazing accomplishment. (what is perhaps more amazing than the writing though, is the difference in range of experience and memories of reading each reader had of this book~i am continually surprised by the fact that i see the world through different eyes than even my closest friends, but i really shouldn't be...) Don't let anyone else (especially not me) tell you what to think about this book or how to feel it. If you feel that this is something you want to read, the experience will probably move you somehow...

(and just in case you wondered~this mainly non-meateater was really craving sausages while reading THIS book~even though the characters never had the luxury of eating much of anything but bread crusts and pea soup {which i actually do like}~though they did have champagne once which exploded in Liesel's mouth and reminded me of the times champagne has exploded uncontainably in my mouth~just by the by)

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