Monday, March 8, 2010

Zusak, Markus (The Book Thief)

The New York Times reviewed this with the following phrase: "the kind of book that can be life changing." That got my dander up. Really? You're going to tell me up front that this book is so good I can't help but have it affect me? What if I don't like it as much as you? Am I then, somehow, defective? Thanks, NYT.

I was untrusting, I'll admit it. While I may not have found the book life changing, it may very well be that for teen readers. The book's magic is in how it slowly reveals aspects of German life across the board in the 1940s. We learn not only what it is like to have been a Jew during that time, but a communist, a child, a rich person, a poor person, a soldier, etc. I can't imagine a more gentle entrée into such a horrifying world.

My minor quibbles were two: At times I was irritated by the author's deliberate fore-shadowing. It *does* work, but instead of it easing you into knowledge that will be coming pages later, it arrives like a bolt out of the blue and causes a literal gasp to escape. I'm not convinced that this was his original or true reason for doing this. The other quibble is the last line, which I cannot reveal, but which, if you've seen all of Robert Redford's movies, will bother you as much as it did me.

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