December 17, 2008

death is no parenthesis

Posted in books tagged , at 4:56 am by placeinthestars

Since sleeping is apparently not happening tonight, I got up around an hour ago and finished reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I cried and hugged the book to my chest. Then I got out of bed to make this post, because sleep is apparently still not happening.

The short version is this: Read this book. The ending is completely inevitable (the narrator spoils it halfway through the book and then gives sort of a half-assed apology for it, because it’s really not that important – as he says on the very first page:

***HERE IS A SMALL FACT***
You are going to die

and yet absolutely devastating. Totally earned and all the more heartwrenching for it. And yet, even though it’s the story of a young girl in Nazi Germany during WWII and the trials and tribulations she undergoes while living with her foster family, it’s not without hope, not relentlessly bleak, even though, as I said, you know the ending is going to be heartbreaking. It’s very much about the random, startling acts of kindness people commit, and also, the random, horrible acts of violence people perpetrate. Sometimes, the same people.

It’s a story about the power of words, of books, of stories, and how we need to tell them, how Liesel Meminger needed to tell her story, and how Death – the narrator – needed to tell it, too.

To quote Death:

It’s just a small story really, about, among other things:
* A girl
* Some words
* An accordionist
* Some fanatical Germans
* A Jewish fist fighter
* And quite a lot of thievery

Her reunion with Max just about KILLED me dead. Dear god. And Rudy Steiner and the teddy bear and the pilot. And how she never told him she loved him, or kissed him while he was alive. Michael Holtzapfel killing himself because he was ashamed at how much he wanted to live, and then the description of the Hubermanns after the bombing *sob* Hans as his accordion, and Rosa, with her sharp tongue and huge heart (the scenes where Liesel spies Rosa bent over the accordion also totally made me cry – that kind of desperate hope and grief always strikes a chord for me) – the last hundred pages or are wrenching and difficult and sad – I had to stop several times because I couldn’t read through my tears – and yet I don’t feel hopeless or depressed in the aftermath. Probably because Liesel lives to a ripe old age, and tells her story.

The language is really gorgeous and the characters all feel real and seriously, read this book if you haven’t already. I highly recommend it.

Maybe now I will try to sleep again. Feh.

***

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