Thursday, 10 February 2011

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Ok so everyones New Years Resolution in Cramlington must have been to join a Book Club as we had a record number of attendees including (fan fare please) our first male member!!!! How exciting. However that meant the pressure was now on for the meeting to be a success and for the book to have been good.

Let the mass reviewing commence;

The story was told from the point of view of Death. We all found it unusual for death to be portrayed as a character. I had only really ever come across this concept in the Disc World Novels by Terry Pratchett. Although I don't think that the book actually ever specifically stated we all believed Death to be a man. The text of the story was also unusual in that the story kept being punctuated by Death adding his own (see, I told you we viewed him as a man) comments. This style of writing left some of our group finding the beginning of the book difficult to get into

Death was an interesting character. He didn't seem to have any control over people dying and seemed to treat souls especially those of children with tenderness. One of our group suggested this idea of Death taking souls away was perhaps a German folklaw. Nobody was able to provide any confirmation of this and if anyone is able to do now please reveal!

I'm not sure whether it was because Death told the reader the outcome of the story early on or whether it was because the story was actually a childrens book (best seller) but although devastating things happened the reader was in some way sheltered. I didn't find myself on the verge of tears (although I think one or two of us did) and I thought I would have been considering who died (don't want to give the game away too much)

We all found it really interesting to read a book from the average German perspective as so many books (rightly so) focus on the horrors faced by the German Jews, or those in and around the Nazi Party. We all commented on the parallels to the average British person during the War such as the fears faced when in air raid shelters. However it also sharply showed the differences between the Germans and the British. The informers, neighbours v neighbours, Hitler Youth Camp and the fact that Liesel had to hide the fact that she was reading books!

We talked for ages about our favourite moments in the book of which there were many. One of my favourites was the snowman in the basement and how Liesel described the sky for Max the Jew hidden in their basement who hadn't even seen out of a window for over a year.

The central characters were strong vivid people who were loved by the reader and Zusak managed to invoke strong mental pictures such as Liesel and Papa painting words in the basement or learning to read in the middle of the night.

What we really wanted to know however was, did Liesel end up with Max? We're all suckers for happy endings! Zusak certainly left it slightly open for the possibility so I'm going to roll with it and say they did.

We spoke a little about where if anywhere, the author fitted into the story. In the preface at the beginning the reader is told that he lives in Australia and his name suggests he has some sort of German ancestry. He certainly couldn't be Max in the story as he isn't old enough however he mentions that Liesel went to live in Australia so perhaps she could be a relative or the story could have been loosely based around stories his relatives have told him? Purely speculation.

Anyway we gave it a well deserved 8.5 (one of us even awarded it a 10!) Our next book is The Island by Victoria Hislop. It's one that a few of us have read so it will be interesting to see what people get out of it second time round.

PS Hit we hit the nail on the head with Zusak.

Wonder how many of us stick to our resolutions next month?