Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

One of my faults is that I read too fast. I want to know what happens next and I can't bear to put down a book while its characters are in pain or peril, so I rush through to find the resolution. But this book I've read in sips. Here are some of the things that conspire to put this book in the ranks of Beloved and The Hours (but now that I think of it, much more pleasant than those):

~ It's about a girl, and about how words can and do change lives. Some of my favorite topics.

~ Words are used for their sound, their allusion, their color and feel, even if their literal meaning is off. It makes for an entrancing, evocative read that makes you look at language anew.

~ It addresses orphans and hunger and family separation and Jewishness during World War II Germany. But it doesn't bludgeon you with horror upon horror, then wallow in the pain. This is not one of those books that introduces you to characters only so you can more fully appreciate how the events of the story are the worst possible outcome for that person. It shows the beauty and triumph amidst gray life and thereby reveals the preciousness of love and relationships. Despite the subject matter, each time you put down the book you'll feel a little warm glow in your heart.

~ Humble, unlucky, flawed characters come together by chance. They form relationships, and each person's unique bumps and grooves fit perfectly against the others'. Each person provides what the others need, and together they make something far greater than the sum of the parts. This is my favorite kind of story. (Think About a Boy.)

~ The narrator is totally unique, and the story never loses sight of itself as a story. There's always a bit of tongue-in-cheek, self-reflexive metanarrative. I love stories that look at themselves as stories and talk with us, the readers, about the process of the unfolding story as it goes. The narrator constantly undermines suspense by telling us what will happen next (sometimes). Because we're freed from suspense (see above for my issues with suspense), we can focus more fully on savoring the telling of the story.


  1. I'm always looking for more fiction to consume, so thanks for the suggestion. And like you, I'll abandon kids, housework and sleep to find out what happens next only to find myself pining for another great book to read.

  2. I love to read too. My husband says I'm "just a page-turner," meaning I like to read just to see the pages turning. But like you said, my problem is that I want to see "what happens next" and don't want to wait. I'm always on the look out for good fiction. Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. Oh, I love books without the suspense because I have the same problem. Thanks for the recommendation!

  4. Amy, I think consume is exactly the right word for you and books. I'd love to hear your recommendations too.

  5. Hey, Angela! Thanks for stopping by and saying hello. Now, I'm off to read about other books you've read.

  6. Hi Angela, I read this book and posted a review of it on my review site--I quoted from your comments, but I didn't link because my site is public and I didn't think you'd want your family site public. Anyway, I hope that is OK. if not let me know and I'll take it down. Read my review here