Monday, February 27, 2012

The Book Thief

"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...."

The Book thief, written by Markus Zusak and narrated by Death, is surprisingly long (550 pages) for just a small story.  Liesel Meminger, living in Nazi Germany, finds herself separated from her parents and brother.  Her foster father teaches her to read in the basement at night as a distraction from her night terrors.  She shares her new reading abilities and the stories she's learned with the Jew hidden in the basement along with the other Germans huddled around her in the bomb shelter.

Death:  "I wanted to tell the book thief many things.....I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do I ever simply estimate it.  I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant. 
None of those things, however, came out of my mouth.
I said it to the book thief and I say it now to you.
I am haunted by humans."

I liked the fact that the book was narrated by Death.  He is an impartial outsider to the Nazis and the holocaust.  He passes no judgment on the situation and focuses on his job of taking the souls of the departed.  The detachment makes reading the sections about the Jews being marched through town to the concentration camps less emotional to read.  Although, one should expect parts of the book to be sad.  It is, afterall, a book wholly centered around the war. 

The tone reminded me of the HBO series Dead Like Me.  Still available on Netflix these days.  I recommend it!

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