Thursday, September 05, 2013

Reader's Diary #1059- Markus Zusak: The Book Thief

Sometimes I'll read something wildly popular and sit back all judgmental, like Fifty Shades of Grey. Other times, I'll read what the masses are reading and completely have my faith in humanity restored, like Markus Zusak's The Book Thief.

The Book Thief isn't a book, it's a work of art. And where does one begin explaining why? The story itself involves a girl named Liesel who lives with her foster parents, the Hubermanns, in Germany during the 2nd World War. They briefly shelter a Jewish man named Max Vandenburg. Liesel is best friends with a boy named Rudy Steiner and together they like to steal. Liesel's preferred loot is books.

But it's not the plot itself that makes the book remarkable— though in itself is quite intense and tragic. It's Death that sells this book. And by capitalizing it, I'm not being hyperbolic. Death is the narrator. What a narrator. What a voice. Is Death blessed with synesthesia or is he being poetic when he blends the senses the way he does? Plus Death's liberal use of foreshadowing was a huge risk on Zusak's part. Constantly Death tells us what happens, then tells us how we get there. It works unbelievably well.

Then there's the theme. Trying hard not to give it away entirely, how humans are compared to words is nothing short of beautiful insight.

I read The Book Thief to my daughter, who's 10 and could easily have read it on her own. Near the end, I choked up. I never do that for a book. I don't know if I was worked up because I was afraid she couldn't handle it (she didn't choke up any more than I), or if it was because of the relationship between Liesel and her foster father, but whatever it was, it was intense. There were times I questioned if I should be reading the book to her. There's a lot of swearing. She's heard as much in movies, but it was difficult to read them aloud to her. Admittedly, some I didn't. I couldn't bring myself, for instance, to say whore or slut. Why is it that I think she's ready to talk about the holocaust but I'm not ready to explain what those words mean? Lots of parental reflection happened at those moments! Still happening. In any case, I don't regret reading it to her. Nor do I think she didn't handle it well. She probably matured a little in the process, but that's a good thing. I definitely don't think Zusak's message was lost on her at all.


raidergirl3 said...

Glad you loved it. Zuzak has written a masterpiece.

Sarah M said...

I didn't love the book when I read it a few years ago. I do love that you read this to your daughter. It's sweet and shows how mature she is that she seemed to understand it.