Friday, August 3, 2012

The Book Thief

the book thief

Where do I start?

My mom brought this book back from Australia with her in 2008 and has been telling me I should read it ever since. It lived in the bookcase beside the bed in the room I slept in when I visited my parents. I'd see it there, but for whatever reason I'd never pick it up and start it. I finally packed it up last summer and brought it home with me. And it proceeded to sit on my bedside table, untouched, until last week.

And then I couldn't put it down. I read it in snatches while J was having a bath. I read it while dinner was cooking. I stayed up late reading it, but not too late because I didn't just want to read the story, I need to savour every word.

The Book Thief is set on a poor street in Molching, a village outside of Munich, during World War II. Yes. Another WWII novel. It is narrated by Death and it follows Liesel, a young German girl, as she adjusts to life with a poor foster family and all of the additional challenges the war brings.

The cast of characters in this book is amazing - besides Liesel and Death there is her foster mother whose language would make a sailor blush, but who loves Liesel even through all her fierceness, there's Papa, the gentle foster father with his silver eyes and his accordion, there's Rudy, the boy next door with the lemon coloured hairwho dreams of being Jesse Owens, there's Max, there's Frau Diller and Frau Holtzapfel, there are so many wonderful characters.

It's a book full of colour and full of emotion. Death associates each dead person with a colour and throughout the book colour is emphasized - hair colour, eye colour, the colour, or lack thereof, of some minor, inconsequential detail. And there are emotions. Many emotions. There's fear and anger. There's joy and sorrow. It's all there. And the reader feels it too. I had tears in my eyes a few times - just like Jessica G. in the comments on this post when Rosa held the accordion and when the eyes turned to rust and when Max left, not once, but twice and when he came back and over and over in the last 50 or so pages. I finished this book on my break at work and I'm sure they thought I was going crazy (I am temporarily helping a department that is not my own on a project that is super stressful, and don't know any of them very well, so I'm sure they thought my red-rimmed eyes were work, not book related!)

I've written before (I think over there, I thought maybe when I wrote about Suite Fran├žaise, but apparently it was some other book) about being sad a book ended and wanting it to keep going, well this was one of those books. I wanted to know what happened, beyond the small snippets that Death gave us. I know why the book had to end there, Death explained it, but I want to know what happened in the years between where we leave Liesel in 1943 and where Death picks up the story again in the Epilogue. How do you think she got were she ended up? I have a bunch of theories and no answers. Maybe that's how it's supposed to be, but I want more!

Oh, and a quick quibble about the Young Adult genre. I don't get it. Apparently it's a relatively new genre. Books like Anne of Green Gables and Little Women were written for adults, with teenagers caught up in that age groups. I have a hard time distinguishing between YA for older teens and adult fiction, especially if its well written. I think this book could fall into either category. I dunno...YA is a difficult genre to define!

I'd love to hear what other thought of the book...this book really makes me wish I still had a book club because I really, really, really want to talk about it!

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