Thanks for all your feedback on covers yesterday – I find this sort of thing really interesting, the thought and research which must go into cover design.
Onto the contents. I had to read The Book Thief very quickly, for my book group, but I hope that didn’t affect my enjoyment of it too much. Enjoyment perhaps a strange word for a book about Nazi Germany narrated by death (I’m going to assume everyone is familiar with the plot, as I seem to be the last person in the world to read the book, but if not then the Wikipedia article gives a brief summary).
There were lots of interesting ideas in the novel – the perspective of Death; the (adoptive) family dynamics in times of great stress; how the public could accept atrocities and how they covertly battled against them. These could all form a blog post, especially Death as a character (which I thought had moments of being very moving, as when he said he always carried the dead children up in his arms) but my favourite thing about The Book Thief was the role of books. It’s evident from the title that books are significant – throughout the novel she steals six books, I think. Just over one for every hundred pages. They form the centre of her world – she learns to read with The Gravedigger’s Handbook and this sets the tone for the fairly arbitrary nature of her spoils – but her understanding of their importance is something we can all adhere to, I’m sure.
More than anything, I love her response to seeing the mayor’s wife’s room full of books. Having only held a few in her life, she suddenly sees shelves and shelves of them:
[…]She said it out loud, the words distributed into a room that was full of cold air and books. Books everywhere! Each wall was armed with overcrowded yet immaculate shelving. It was barely possible to see the paintwork. There were all different styles and sizes of lettering on the spines of the black, the red, the grey, the every-coloured books. It was one of the most beautiful thins Liesel Meminger had ever seen.
With wonder, she smiled.
That such a room existed!
Even when she tried to wipe the smile away with her forearm, she realised instantly that it was a pointless exercise[…]
Markus Zusak (as well as being the first author beginning with ‘Z’ whom I’m read) is a talented story-teller, and The Book Thief is an impressive novel. I didn’t love it abundantly, perhaps because some of the themes weren’t fully realised and a little too much time was spent on the establishing of relationships between Liesel and her friends and family for my liking – but these qualms aside, I did like the novel very much. Anything this affectionate about books can’t be bad.