Friday, June 27, 2008

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Main Character: Liesel
Location: Germany
Time period: 1940s
Genre: YA Fiction, Historical, World War II, Holocaust

This book was so highly praised in so many ways that I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. But when I read it, my main reaction was repeated annoyance. The book is narrated by Death telling the story of a young girl named Liesel and the people in her life, but he keeps interrupting himself with asides and hints as to what's still to come. This stylistic choice breaks the flow of the narrative and diminishes the emotional impact. (I had a similar reaction to the ending of the author's I Am the Messenger.)

That being said, there are many things to like about this book. Liesel, her friend Rudy, her foster parents, the Jewish man they take in and hide, even the Mayor's wife--they are all compelling characters and you want to know what happens to them, despite the annoying interruptions. Liesel has had a hard and tragic life and yearns for something more. She is taken in by a foster family, Rosa and Hans Huberman. Rosa is a loud, screeching woman whose shrewish behavior masks a soft heart while Hans is a house painter whose true calling is playing the accordion. With them and with the neighbor boy, Rudy, Liesel finds love and happiness despite their poverty. And in a freezing cold room at the Mayor's wife's house, Liesel discovers the unimaginable wealth of a room full of books. When a young Jewish man shows up at the house, looking for shelter, Hans and Rosa take him in without hesitation, and Liesel develops a special relationship with him. When I think back on this book, it's the characters and the imagery that stick with me, not the style and structure.

In short, this is a challenging but rewarding read.

No comments: