Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Book Thief: A Review

What can I say about a book, where Death is the narrator? 
That it is funny and morbid in parts. 

This isn’t an objective review, I’m afraid.
 I stayed up all night, reading this book and at some point in the twilight hour, I fell in love.

To paraphrase, Markus Zusak (author) slightly.

The only thing worse than a book you hate: Is a book you fall in love with.

The Book Thief, has been around for a long time now. For too long and too many like me, could be oblivious to it.
Set in Nazi Germany, The Book Thief, recounts the story of a young girl (Leisel ) and her world. A world at the same time divorced and anchored in the most gruesome acts of the 20th century. 
That’s the thing about the Holocaust, or any war horror- you can write about it so, that the reader’s heart is ripped out and is disoriented for days. And why ever not, many would argue. I am all for telling stories, of keeping the memory of the heinous alive. Maybe to remind all of us, never to turn that corner again.
 It’s easy and tempting to recount the details of the violence in a violent way. However, it takes a very special author, to do it gently and gracefully; without performing any disservice to the memories of those who endured it.

In Zusak’s world, you meet a motley crew of characters. They live in a microcosm of horror, equally untouched and manipulated by events around them. The strength of the story are the smaller stories, how Tommy's ear infection caused Rudy to win the medals. Why didn't Rudy want all of them? Suddenly, these seem like urgent questions in Molching, a town so close to the epicenter of Nazi Germany. There’s Papa, Max (the Jew who wants to beat Hitler in a boxing match), Rudy,  the swearing foster mother, Rosa. There’s Ilsa Hermann, the woman who never got over her son’s death. 
And then, there’s Death. A narrative device, used both beautifully and hauntingly.

 Death is marked by its melancholic, yet shrug-of-shoulder narration of events. 

For the book thief, everything was going nicely.
For me, the sky was the colour of Jews"

This brings me back to my point, on fiction around the Holocaust-- it’s so easy and sometimes necessary to rip the readers heart out. 
This book will walk inside your body. 
Saunter, if you may.
Sit inside you, in lotus position, holding your heart in its hands. With every turn of the page, you will feel a squeeze there, a tug here. And all you will fervently whisper is, please don't break my heart. Please don't.

Perhaps, Zusak’s foreplay with words and easy amble around irony, classifies this as “young adult fiction”. However, there are vibrant analogies, crippled characters and a backdrop of one of the worst hate crimes committed. This is important reading for the young and adult alike. 

I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.” 

You did good, Markus. You did good.

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