Saturday, April 7, 2012

"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." ~ Death, from "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak

For the month of April, my book group chose to read The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.  I will be hosting our discussion in a few weeks and just know that this book will prompt interesting conversation.

The Book Thief is another rendering of the days of World War II Germany and how the human spirit holds fast to the things that keep us human.  In this case, words become the means for soothing the soul -  but we also see them used for spreading hate in Hitler's Mein Kampf.  One of the more interesting and compelling aspects of this story is that the narrator is Death himself, and the reader comes to see him in a very different light. Death wishes that he did not have to interact with humans and their confusing capacities for great love and great evil, just as humans have always feared interacting with him.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Book-Thief-Markus-Zusak
/dp/0375842209
Considered a "young-adult" book by the School Library JournalThe Book Thief is another example of the current cross-over of young-adult and adult literature, such as The Hunger Games, and The Twilight Series.  The School Library Journal provides this synopsis and review:

"Zusak has created a work that deserves the attention of sophisticated teen and adult readers. Death himself narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just stolen her first book–although she has not yet learned how to read–and her foster father uses it, The Gravediggers Handbook, to lull her to sleep when she's roused by regular nightmares about her younger brother's death. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books as well as a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayor's reclusive wife (who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents. Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward. Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but he does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesel's story all the nuances of chance, folly, and fulfilled expectation that it deserves. An extraordinary narrative." –Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA 

A movie adaptation of The Book Thief is currently in development, with Downton Abbey director Brian Percival being recently brought in as director.  Below, watch a brief interview with Markus Zusak during which he shares the inspiration for his story and how what was intended to be a novella went on to become a 500+ page novel - a novel that will bring you tears, but will ultimately console with you the power of the human spirit.



6 comments:

  1. A compelling book review, Tracy. Thank you for bringing this story to the forefront, as it is now own my book list. If you ever wish to come out of retirement, you might want to consider writing book reviews.

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    1. Thank you Tierney. I think that I'll stick with retirement as I suspect that writing book reviews would involve deadlines - I'm over that!

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  2. This sounds so intersting (although it is very hard for me to read about anything in WW11). I will check it out. Thanks Clarice

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    1. I too have a difficult time reading about the events of World War II. One of the things that I love about being part of a book club is that I often end up reading things that I would not have picked up on my own. This is one of those books - but I'm very glad to have read it.

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  3. I just randomly found your blog, and saw that you were talking about 'the book thief'. I read it a few years ago, and absolutely loved it. Can't wait to hear what your readers think about it. For me it was one of the best books I have read in a long time.
    Have a great day,
    A

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    1. Anya - I'm so glad that you stumbled my way! I agree with you - it is one of the best books that I have read as well. I'll let you know how our book club discussion goes!

      Visit again and take care - Tracy

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