Monday, December 3, 2012

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

"How does it feel, anyway?"
"How does what feel?"
"When you take one of those books?"
At that moment, she chose to keep still. If he wanted an answer, he'd have to come back, and he did. "Well?" he asked, but again, it was the boy who replied, before Liesel could even open her motuh. "It feels good, doesn't it? To steal something back."
Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War 2, Death relates the story of Liesel -- a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as her neighbors.

~Print copy (from the library), 550 pages
Published: 2006 by Alfred A. Knopf (New York)

How did I feel about this book? ....

It didn't feel worth two weeks of my time. Yes, it was November, and especially in those last two weeks when I was pounding away the words (on the brightside: I did make it past 50,000 words!), but two weeks is a long time for me to spend on a book.

To put that into perspective, it also took me two weeks to read Lord of the Rings: the entire trilogy -- which put together in a one-volume edition is over 1,000 pages. The Book Thief is half that, and took the same amount of time.

This wasn't one of those "I'm savoring it" type of books, either -- it was more sheer stubbornness and loyalty to reading that I stuck through. Let me tell you why:

1. I could not really connect with Liesel. This story is told from Death's POV: an unusual and interesting character to tell a story through, I grant you, but it did not bring me closer to the story. In fact, it jumped perspective to Liesel's foster father Papa or Hans several times, and occassionally to the Jewish man they were hiding, Max.

It didn't seem an organized jump around in POV, either: the whimsical jumps from what Max was doing, to flashbacks of Liesel's friend Rudy, to Hans's time in WW1 and why they were hiding the Jew in the 1st place was too scattered for me to connect (which is an amazing feat - I can connect things randomly better than most people I know).

2. Another reason is the clumsy attempt at romance, especially in the second half of the novel. I don't want to give too much of this part away, since it would give away the ending, but I don't like romance in the best of terms and when you spring it on me at the end of the book, I'm unsettled.

3. The ending. That ending. I wanted... well, not that. And it didn't help that there was like, a chapter or two (literally) seemingly dedicated to bluntly foreshadowing (foretelling?) the ending. I could guess at the ending about halfway in, and I prefer a surprise. Preferably a happy surprise.

4. It was kind of episodic. You know, like the Scarlet Letter? Anotehr book I don't particularly like? She spent a lot of time happy, as well. You expect a certain amount of suffering, which increases throughout the book at a somewhat steady rate, and then they get to Climax and either they're suffering ends or they lose. Well, The Book Thief more tells an event, then she relaxes, then another event occurs, and so on. It's almost a biography, a sort of cataloguing of personal events.

Let me give you an example: there is a chapter on what she does over the summer: reading from a stolen book, playing soccer, and reading on the floor of the mayor's floor of the library, as the mayor's grieving wife sits and watches. There are chapters of Hans's time in WW1, of Max's time getting to their house, and a flashback to an incident of Rudy's past that really only reflects on Rudy's personality/quirks, not really advancing the book.

This wasn't your typical "arc" -- plot wise. You could make a case for character-wise. It was more, something came up, something was dealt with, all the way up to the end, which was (as I've always had a tic about) pretty much a chance ending.

I am not critisizing Zusak's writing capabilities whatsoever, really. I am just not thrilled about it -- it's just not my cup of tea. And I read it at the worst possible time, when I'm trying to write a fantasy novel in a month.

There were good aspects of it. I mean, I already said that Death is an interesting POV. It's not often I come across a "unique" (in my sense of the word) main character. And thought Death isn't an MC per say, you could argue that, since it's a war and he does show up every time someone dies (which is kind of often during this book) so he could be considered, in my opinion, a rather cool MC.

I also like the time period, and some of the quirks of this particular cast of characters. Not the bloodshed of war, mind you: I'm just a bit of a history lover, and wars/cultures/what-is-or-was-going-on in other countries (mostly) interest me.  And Hans played the accordian, and that accordian played an important part in this book, which is kind of amazing. I've never heard an accordian, but it's like the wierdest, coolest-looking instrument ever, next to the guitar.

Liesel herself seemed kind of bland and ordinary to me; her friend, Rudy, was kind of meh, but he had a trouble-making side and he has a big family, which I can relate to. (Not the trouble-making, the big family -- I don't remember a time I've gotten in trouble for anything other than reading a book at inappropriate times).

In all, I would give this book a 2.5. I don't feel like putting a picture on this post, so I'm just going to leave it at that. I might recommend it to other people, if they love WW2 and aren't quite so... like me. It's just overall not my cup of tea.

[Sorry this is so late, too -- I've had homework up to my ears, I've just begun editing my completed nano project, and my throat is killing me. Have you ever tried writing an essay, a blog post, and highlighting what you need to edit in your first draft, all while you have a sore throat, a somewhat stuffed-up nose, and a wierd almost-cough? It's bad.]

Anyways, have a blessed Monday, if there is such a thing! And while I'm at it, have a happy Tuesday! 

1 comment:

  1. Oh, what a shame. I love Book Thief for probably most of the reasons you hate it. I love the way it wasn't chronologically told and I love Liesl and Rudy. I love the ending even though I hate it.
    Oh, well.