Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It kills me sometimes, how people die

So I had over a hundred pages left in The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, when I was getting ready for bed and told myself just one more chapter. So of course I was up late finishing it.

The novel is a coming-of-age tale about a young girl, Leisel, in Germany during the start of WWII. Her mother leaves her with a set of foster parents in the poorer part of town. Her brother dies on the way there. The whole book is told from Death's perspective, which I liked a lot. I expected Death to be glad of a war, glad for more to do, but Zusak's Death viewed it as another task, a boss yelling to get more done. Death was tired.

The characters in this book are so vivid. Rudy Steiner and Leisel are so clear in my mind. Their friendship is so realistic and refreshing. Leisel's Papa is a man you cannot help but want to hug. If only everyone had someone sitting next to them when they awoke from a nightmare, maybe the world would be a better place. The way that Zusak writes is very interesting, however, after a while I got a little annoyed with the way he would describe things. Sentences like (and I'm paraphrasing here): Her voice was like suicide. While I really like that particular sentence, I felt the novel was over populated with them. They became less special and unique.

Max (a Jew who is hidden in Leisel's basement) becomes very close to Leisel. His story that he leaves her is shown with pictures and different writing. I like when modern novels do this, using different forms and styles to evoke emotion in the reader. What struck me most about Max is that he was my age. My age, and hiding in a basement, unable to see the sky, unable to do anything except sustain. Leisel finds him in the parade of Jews near the end and the whole scene is just beautiful. She repeats lines to him from his story and he kisses the palm of her hand. And then they are whipped.

Death does give the ending away (for the most part), and I thought that knowing certain characters are going to die would make the actual death less powerful. I was wrong. Knowing made my heart hurt every time the character was around after then, and it did not soften the blow.

As a young adult book I think that this does an admirable job of brining a huge, horrible concept to the level of adolescence.

Some of my favorie quotes ( the title of this entry is one of them)

"Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness."

"The only thing worse than a boy that hates you: a boy that loves you."

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