Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Book Thief

Here it is, only February, and I don't know if I'll be lucky enough to read a better book this year.

I only recently heard about The Book Thief when Jill mentioned it on her blog. She and several others gave it such a strong review that I looked it up on Goodreads. I was a little dismayed when I learned it was set in Nazi Germany, because, well...I wasn't sure what else could be written about that time that hadn't already been said, and said well by many different authors.

I'm so glad I didn't let that thought stop me. This is a quirky book. The narrator is Death, and death isn't a very typical story teller. There are these abrupt bold statements centered throughout the pages when Death feels further information is necessary. They bothered me at first because I couldn't get into my normal rhythm. And, sometimes, his little side comments seemed slightly irreverent. Wait, books don't do this. Not books about the holocaust and Nazi Germany. But this book did, and once I got used to it, I loved Death's little insights.

My favorite thing about this book is it's fairness about one of the most unfair times in human history. The unbelievably complicated situation that the German people were in, their motives, their fear, even their ignorance is not necessarily defended, but explained. Their story is told through Liesel, a young girl who watches her brother die on a train as she is being taken to live with foster parents. After her brother is buried, she snatches a book left in the snow called, The Gravediggers Handbook. Unable to read, she hides the book in her bed until her gentle and loving foster father finds it and uses it to teach her how.

It isn't really about the Germans and the Jews....it's about our human instincts to survive and our race towards death. Death has a really interesting perspective, which lends itself to many quote worthy statements.. His viewpoint (and I'm just assigning gender to him, I'm not sure he actually does) is a troubling one, a compassionate one, an irreverent one and one that left me sobbing tears onto the pages at its end.

While I think this book is suitable for every reader, those easily offended might be troubled by some German profanity. However, in my opinion, not only is it necessary and relevant to the character's communication, it's in a foreign language...which doesn't really count.

I'm grateful this book crossed my path. It touched me.

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