Sunday, September 12, 2010

I'm always finding people at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both

As I promised in my last post, I've finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  It was hard to get through the end.  Every page has another heart wrenching situation for the characters deal with but it never feels melodramatic, it never feels forced.  I was worried the book would go down that road.  I suppose anytime I see "New York Times #1 Bestseller" plastered on the front of a book I get a little nervous the book will be manipulative of the characters and ultimately of the reader.  It's an unfair preconception on my part, I know, and at some point perhaps I'll work on it.  I did take a class in college called The Modern Bestseller and it mostly confirmed those beliefs.  Luckily for me I heard enough reviews from other bloggers that I was willing to give the book a try.  That and I didn't know about it's NYT Bestseller status until I already decided to buy it.

I mentioned the book is especially heart wrenching at the end and of course this isn't too surprising for a story about the Holocaust and Nazi Germany.  The blows little Liesel has to take, one right after the other, are devastating for her and it was difficult for me to read this book in public.  The reader is warned about the horrors that are coming before they actually take place because the narrator Death keeps telling you what's going to happen, before he gets back to telling the story.  Rather than ruining the ending this just serves to build the tension.  I ended up on the edge of my seat wondering if this was the moment Death was referring to earlier.  I don't know that I necessarily liked this technique because I spent so much time waiting for the other shoe to drop that I'm sure I missed important points.

The next parts will contain some spoilers so heads up.

There were 2 deaths Death said on multiple occasions were coming and while I may have missed other subtle points waiting for it to happen, this did not make the deaths any less powerful.  When Liesel sees the LSE carrying Rudy's body I was devastated.  I had to take many breaks while reading the scene of her kissing Rudy while the LSE tried to remove the bodies and get Liesel to safety.  The whole block was destroyed and there is so much pain to take in but the fact that Liesel essentially breaks down at this moment is hard to read.

The second part I guess wasn't the direct death that was so painful but instead it was the imminent pain and suffering that was about to happen.  Liesel and the others are watching Nazi soldiers lead a group of Jews through the town on the way to a death camp and Liesel is searching for Max, the Jew her family had sheltered.  When she finds him she runs into the crowd and stands with him.  It's not the violence of the scene but that there is this pocket of love within so much hatred that is so touching.  both Liesel and Max knew that the consequences would be harsh for this behavior and yet it doesn't matter.

Thank you to the bloggers that recommended this book in your own reviews.  I won't be adding this my pile of books that I read over and over again but I was pleasantly surprised to so enjoy the book.

Title quote from page 491