Thursday, January 31, 2013

Group Read: The Book Thief by Mark Zusak

The Book ThiefThis is our first Group Read at YAF & WS, and we could not be more excited. Welcome to The Book Thief by Mark Zusak.  A 500 page book about the Holocaust? Well, if John Green recommends it, we are in... And can we say, we are so happy that we read this book.

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....

Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.

With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul. via GoodReads

Our fab blog friend Steph at TheFakeSteph joined for this group read! Yay! Check out her thoughts, too.

(Red= Grad Student, Green=Goosie Mama, Blue= Crazy Camper)

GS: 8. There is a lot of YA fiction exploring WWII and the Holocaust but seeing the war from the point of view of poor Germans who were everything from passionate to undecided felt fresh. Then you add Death's narration and the unique formatting of the book (the bold-font lists from Death and Max's drawings)  and this is a very original read.
GM: I'm going with an 8, as I found this book to be a unique literary tome (500 pages?!). Right off the bat, the way Zusak deliberately (in)humanizes Death's narration is interesting, mildly confusing and always an attention grabber. The eerie description of taking (or sometimes rescuing) souls is disturbing, yet comforting and Liesel's existence is also a striking dichotomy of the life within and outside of the walls of her home.


CC: 10/1.  I cant decide.  Do I give this a 10 because it is written by Death? Do I give it a 10 because of the absurdity of the tragedy that is the basis for this story?  Or do I give it a 1, because however absurd a story could be, the Holocaust was far too real.
GS:  3. Certainly some points for the crazy of having a world-weary Death narrate. But it is BALLER that it works so well, and that Death's asides to the reader had me laughing and crying. And by laughing, I mean snorting re: Jesse Owens.
GM: 2. Okay, I think we all agreed that outside of Death, this was pretty realistic (and frankly, I found it heartstoppingly so in certain parts where Max's discovery was pretty imminent). It was realistic enough that I was bawling the last 20 pages or so for each of the characters whom Zusak describes in such detail, I literally feel like I made five friends: Leisel, Papa, Mama, Max and Rudy. 

Paranormal Romance Love and Friendship  

CC:10.  This book is about the friendships and love we make with those people around who make up our lives.  And how these relationships make us who we are, and direct who we will be.

GS: 10 again. Leisel learning to love Papa was so great and the love she never shares with a certain someone had a hint of swoon and a lot of.
GM: 10, if for no other reason than Leisel and Papa. My gosh, that relationship was so beautifully nuanced it made my heart pitter patter all over the place. As for Mama, I will forever love the word saumensch and use it in regular conversation just for her.

  “If only she could be so oblivious again, to feel such love without knowing it, mistaking it for laughter. ” 
“He does something to me, that boy. Every time. It’s his only detriment. He steps on my heart. He makes me cry.”  (Cue the tears from GS)

Harry Potternness

CC: 11.  This is not a childhood story with undertones.  This is a story that will hit you in the face, in which young children know the brutality and pain that comes with life, but which is told with such unique prose that you cant stop.   At 5:45 on the metro home from work, I finished this book in tears- it is that beautiful of a story.
GS:  10. This book is going to stick with me. I loved how colors and tastes were part of Zusak's descriptions. The writing really stood out for me. By the last 50 pages (after the hints that Death dropped) I didn't know if I would be able to bear finishing it. But I did! And I cried and texted CC (who ignored me, btw, but it was past her bedtime). And then I reread the last Max section. When a book pulls you back in as soon as you finish, you know it is Harry-Potter quality.
GM: 9 - I only give it a 9 because it was emotionally brutal in parts and I'm finding it difficult to compare to Harry Potter at all. In terms of written well? Yeah, duh. To me, the beauty in this book was how Zusak could take simple words and weave them into beautiful, yet simple statements about his characters and human nature as a whole. Hmmm, I think I'm changing my rating to a 10.

1 comment:

  1. YES! I loved that this story was about poor Germans. The scene where Han's son is all "How can you be such a coward and not do a thing to help your nation?" It was soooooo powerful, because people have been asking that question ever since the end of the Halocaust, they just mean the opposite thing. Living during something like that isn't any different from living anywhere else... you don't die and take risks for ideals, you do it for the people you love, and I loooooooved that the book seemed to answer the question, "how does this even happen?" Slowly, and then all at once. Just like everything else.

    Death's narration was so great, because he tried so hard not to care, and yet the death did affect him. It did matter. I loved seeing the little cracks in Death's armor.

    Totally agree how real the story is. Even with death as a narrator, this book is the kind that feels more real than my actual life.

    And I love both those quotes about love. Oh goooooooood... I'm crying now. Just as good as HP, but in a totally different way.


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