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Posts Tagged ‘world war II

The Book Thief

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bookthiefAfter reading Kat’s review, I had to read The Book Thief. (This happens to me fairly regularly – she reads something awesome and then I’ve got to get into it.) I have a bit of an academic fetish with the Holocaust and a definite fascination with Death, so it was remarkable that I hadn’t already read a book transpiring during WWII that was narrated by death.

The only other YA lit about WWII that I’ve read, or indeed know about, is Number the Stars, which this book resembled in just about no way whatsoever. Number the Stars is a much more linear narrative sticking to the lives of the characters involved. The narration of The Book Thief by an outside force, specifically by Death, allows Zusak to create a more magical atmosphere in such a dark subject. I felt that this book’s closest peers were the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman; books classified as YA lit because their protagonists were children and their language was readily accessible, but with intense plots and sophisticated messages.

Unlike Kat, this book did not make me weep, though that was only due to the amount of foreshadowing of the ending that filled the last third of the book. It did break my heart into a thousand tiny little pieces though. I can’t fault Zusak for not trying, I’m just not a crier at books. Movies, yes, but there’s only one book in the history of books that has ever made me cry. Oh yes, The Time-Traveler’s Wife had me crying like a baby for HOURS. My husband at the time was asleep when I finished reading at at 2AM one Icelandic winter’s night and I had to wake him up and ask him to hold me while I wept. 

So, no weeping for me, but definitely a heavy feeling in my soul. In a good way.


Written by Sonja

April 18, 2009 at 4:06 pm

The Book Thief.

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak takes place in Germany during the beginning of World War II.  Nine-year-old Liesel is on a train with her brother and her mother to a foster family when she sees Death enter and realizes her brother is dead.  By her brother’s graveside, Liesel steals her first book, The Grave Digger’s Handbook, which was dropped in the snow.

Death proceeds to narrate the next five years of Liesel’s life, and his overview makes for an interesting take on the war, Liesel’s life and love of words, her new parents and the Jewish man they are hiding in the basement, and Liesel’s best friend, Rudy.

Death notes the weariness war brings:

Five hundred souls.

The fallen hours of May 30.

I’m sure Liesel Meminger was fast asleep when more than a thousand bomber planes flew toward a place known as Koln.  For me, the result was five hundred people or thereabouts.  Fifty thousand others ambled homelessly around the ghostly piles of rubble, trying to work out which way was which, and which slabs of broken home belonged to whom.

I carried them in my fingers, like suitcases.  Or I’d throw then over my shoulder.  It was only the children I carried in my arms.

I loved The Book Thief and it broke my heart in little ways at the same time, in much the same way the story- out of so many others- stayed with Death the Narrator, who ends the book by saying, “I am haunted by humans.”

Written by questionsandanchors

April 6, 2009 at 3:10 am

Fugitive Pieces.

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fugitive-piecesFriends, you may have noticed that I have been absent from posting recently and left my dear Sonika to shoulder the burden.  This is because two weeks ago today I began full-time employment again, and while that has been helpful to my bank account, it’s really been detrimental to my reading time.  Matter of fact, I think I’d be so bold as to say that my job is getting in the way of my reading.

So as a way to jump start my reading again, I turned to one of my favorite books, Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels.  I first started this book in an aisle at Barnes & Noble right after it came out, and was quite upset my father ended up buying it as a graduation present for one of his star students instead of me.

For the next three years, I could not remember anything of the book, not even the title, except that the little boy describes his sister as having hair like syrup. Shortly after I went to college, I discovered a copy of this book on a new friend’s bookshelf.  It is finds like this that make me believe a book will choose you nearly as much as you choose the book.

Fugitive Pieces is great in no small part because Anne Michaels is a poet, a fact readily apparent from the first line: ‘Time is a blind guide.’  Her handle of language is both tender and loaded, and the book is ripe with symbolism as well as literary allusions (though not in the annoying the-whale-is-white kind of way).

The book opens with an eight-year-old Jakob Beer detailing the destruction of his Jewish family by the Nazis and his flight, ending in the arms of a man named Athos, who smuggles Jakob back to his home country of Greece.  The story follows Jakob through his life as he struggles with what it means to have survived his parents; to not know what happened to his sister Bella; and to exist in relation to people who do not live with his daily fears and questions, such as his first wife Alex.

The second part of the book takes place after Jakob’s death, as Ben (who met Jakob at a dinner party and shares mutual friends) helps to assemble Jakob’s affairs.  Ben is struggling to understand his parents, who survived the camps, and how the war continues to affect his life even though it has ended.  In essence, Jakob is a guide for Ben on how to live when the  past that is very much in the present.

I chose to reread a new copy of this book to separate myself from past reads which have left my first copy with notes on every page.  I wanted to experience it anew, and see if I could focus on the book outside of its profound effect on me.  Throughout the read, snippets of Anne Michaels’ poetry kept running through my mind: ‘a tangle of pajamas anxious to learn the stars’; ‘the dead leave us starving with mouthfuls of love’; ‘Sometimes I’m certain those who are happy/ know one thing more than us… or one thing less‘;  and I remembered why I loved this book so, and was filled with a desire to give it to everyone I know.

The last line of the book is, “I see that I must give what I most need,” and I realized this time through yet another way this relates to me.  And so I am sending my father a copy of Fugitive Pieces.

Written by questionsandanchors

March 4, 2009 at 4:41 am