|The Book Thief by Markus Zusak|
I put off reading this book for so long, but then so many of the end of 2010 recaps had this among their favorites of the year so I figured I would give it a try. And I loved it. I think a lot of what caused me to put off reading this was people talking about the “unusual” writing style, which I usually take to mean “flowery prose that must be deciphered” So, I decided to listen to this on audio. Allan Corduner does an amazing job of narrating as Death, as well as bringing to life the amazing characters of Liesel, Rosa, Hans, Max, and Rudy. I was caught up, entranced, and swept away and finished this 14 hour audio in jut 2 1/2 days.
The Book Thief’s strength is in its subtleties I think. There are no extreme action scenes, no fast moving plots, it felt like a stroll through a series of memories and finally, like a smile through tears. Of course, as everyone knows, its narrated by Death. What I found to be intriguing was that Death starts the narrative by telling us how it will end. So that as I was getting to know these characters, feeling for them and with them, I already knew what their ultimate fate was in the book.
This story kind of snuck up on me. I knew that I enjoyed it, but I don't think I realized how invested I was in the characters until I found myself with tears rolling down my face and a knot in my throat. Even though I already knew how it would end, there were no surprises.
I haven't read any other books about Nazi Germany, so I'm not sure how this compares, but I was happy that it doesn't go into any graphic detail about the horrific deaths of the Jews, I don't want to read about that. It does paint a vivid picture of ordinary people, living, coping, surviving in a dangerous period of time. One part of the story that really struck me was when a father was trying to explain to his young son why he shouldn't publically idolize the gold medal winning Jesse Owens, because of his skin color. How do you consciously teach a child racism, even when you don't really understand it yourself? But you know you have to do it to keep him and your family safe.
This was a powerful story, focusing mainly on Liesel and the people in her world, and the stolen books that represent key moments in her life. I was a little unsure about reviewing this, because I don't know that my review will do it justice. I can only say that this is a story that will stay with me long after I put it down and move on to the next book. When I hear a discussion about Nazi Germany, I'll think about this book and Death's words and the boy with hair like lemons. Unquestionably rating this a 5 and highly recommend for anyone.