Sunday, January 30, 2011

"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak

There are novels that mess with your head.  There are novels that change your life.  The Book Thief is both.

When I started reading, I wasn't sure I liked it much.  It's told from Death's point-of-view, and Death has an interesting way of expressing himself, very reminiscent of Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions.  It's wry.  It's self-deprecating.  It's self-aware.  And by the end of the book, I was in love.

Thing is, Zusak tells you exactly what's going to happen.  He keeps distancing us from the story, reminding us that we already know the ending, that we shouldn't get too involved.  But we do anyway.  The characters are so engaging, so believably heartrending, so lovable.

This is a story of Germany during World War II, but it's not about the Holocaust.  Sure, it makes an appearance or two or five, but how could it not?  This book is about the relationships between all of these deeply flawed but magnificent humans and the figure of Death who, despite himself, gets involved in the story of their lives.

I've only cried while reading a couple of books in my life.  One was My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok.  Another good one to read, by the way.  But even that one didn't make me openly weep like this novel.

Now, please don't let that statement turn you away from the book.  It took me forever to watch Schindler's List, because I never felt like I was "up for it".  This novel will wrench your soul, true, but you will enjoy the process.  The book is... for want of another way of putting it... a fun read.

I could give you a plot summary without any fear of spoilers, since Zusak does such a good job of that himself.  But the beauty of this author's bizarre prose can't really be captured in a Cliff's notes version of the novel.  And that's not my style anyway.

What is my style is to tell you to get off your rear end RIGHT NOW and go get this book!  It's available here.  It will change you, and you will return and thank me for recommending it.

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