Sunday, February 11, 2018

Review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

Initial Thoughts:
I’ve been big on the young adult genre lately.  Appropriately, The Book Thief is a book in the young adult target.  I’ve also been more drawn towards fantasy, science fiction, adventures, hidden worlds… with a side dish of romance.

The Book Thief isn’t a book I would normally take on nowadays.  This book seems to be a “made for deep analysis” type of book.  I’m of the “I’m tired of deep thinking” type, because I’d rather read something and simply express whether or not I liked it and why.  High school already took us through the analysis of books, dissecting and manipulating phrases, scenes, characters, etc… just to determine whether or not we really know what an author is truly trying to present.  

In the end, you're not even sure whether or not the author truly had deep meaning messages behind his or her writings.

That’s not for me anymore.

My BFF, however is interested in this book and was determined to choose it as part of our “Mini Book Club” selection.  I’m sure it fascinates her because she likes inspiration pieces and the like.  There’s no doubting that it fascinates me as well; the entire premise is interesting.

Those were my initial thoughts before reading The Book Thief.  For some, stubborn reason, I always feel the need to read these types of books as if I’m going to be graded on a college level essay.  It’s a point of pride that I don’t like sounding stupid doing one of few things I truly love to do: discussing books.  However, I know it can’t be helped.  Everyone takes something different away from a book and I'll admit that my take-aways aren't always well-informed or researched.

But these following thoughts came to me as I neared the ending of the book.

Who cares if I can’t analyze every symbolic detail presented in The Book Thief?  This book was enjoyable and memorable, all in itself.  It’s unique and entertaining, conveying a monotonously dank, dark mood that just hangs there without even trying.  It's a book about a tragic moment in history, told from a perspective different from what I'm familiar with.  It's a powerful book that details a simple fact in life that despite there being a bigger picture unfolding all around the world, life for the common everyday person still has to just keep moving forward.  Life goes on.

This is a story wherein a little girl goes through her own life with global events being the last thing on her mind; yet at the same time, the effects of those global events (Hitler's rise, the war, etc...) still sting on a personal level.

Most importantly, I DID enjoy reading this book very much.  In a simply put fashion, as I’d already mentioned.  I just really, really liked this book and the story of the book thief.

Now if only I could start off reading all of my books with this mindset; because, frankly, who cares what anyone else thinks?  My opinion is my opinion.  Right?

What I liked:
The writing style and format was different from what I’m used to (aside from the fact that the majority of YA fiction tends to be written in first person, a fact that irks me just a little bit).

This thought came to me at some point during my reading: The format reminds me of a graphic novel, told in words rather than pictures, but where the pictures are still rather vivid even without the illustrations.  In fact, it reminded me of Japanese manga, for some reason (though I’m not certain what that reason is).

The story is told in an almost third person omniscient view where Death is the narrator, but most of the story rarely comes around to Death referring to himself too often.  And so it seems to present itself more in third person with a “tale telling” air about it.  I don’t know if any of that makes any sense, but to me, it gave off a rather whimsical feel… in spite of the dark, melancholic background of the story’s setting.

The writing conveyed vivid detail, as I already mentioned.  Even while seemingly detached from the book’s story and characters, you can still feel what the characters feel and see what the characters see.  The descriptions were excellent.

The “FEELS”....  Yea, they were there alright.

What I’m unsure of:
Everything about this book gives me serious conflicting feelings despite the feels.  The reason being: It’s just hard to put into words the strange feelings going through my mind when I’m reading this book.  I’m conflicted in that, I know this is a depressing setting, a depressing story, a depressing time frame…  There’s tragedy, tension, danger and so many other things going on.  I mean, this is a time of war and depression (for the lack of a better descriptor).  But I’m not as caught up in all the emotions my mind is telling me I should be feeling.

I am concerned with Liesel's everyday dealings and how, even though there's a war going on and people dying, Liesel's life seems fairly normal for a young child growing up.  I am concerned with Liesel's growth through her learning to read and write, becoming attached to the written word, as well as through her interactions with her foster parents and the Jewish man hidden in their basement.  I am also concerned with Liesel's interactions with her friends and the people around her.  I am concerned with how Liesel manages to slowly survive through her nightmares and the misery that left her orphaned.

This book truly is quite character driven.

There are small details and random scenes that manage to make me really feel what I believe I should be feeling.  Those moments are so strangely random and fleeting.

There’s a detachment from the story and the characters that gives me a feeling of “watching a story unfold as a story” rather than “living out the story with the story”... if that makes any sense.  I know that this book should be triggering some sort of melancholic feeling in me, but I don’t necessarily feel it until there’s mention of the death of a precious, main character you’ve gotten to know.  There is no element of surprise in this book (which works well for the way it's written), and so you know there's more death coming and it gives you a sense of dread.  But then the scene changes so abruptly, the subject moves on, and you’re stuck not quite able to gather what emotions were supposed to be there in the first place.

Final Thoughts:
So there it is.  This is why I have so many conflicted feelings about this book.  Yet at the same time, I’m truly in love with the way it was written, the dark, twisted humor, the melancholic atmosphere… and even the scattering of characters who grow on you, even if not entirely in an emotionally attached way.

I’ve written so many notes and copied down so many quotes from the book.  There were a lot of moments that touched on a rather beautiful image.  There were heartwarming moments that made you smile and finally feel like you're living the story.  And I will admit, there was actually a moment in which my stone, cold heart clenched at the sadness and I shed a few tears.  

In the end, I’m sure that there are no proper words to describe my true feelings for this book.

I liked it.  It may not be the best book I’ve ever read, but it certainly comes close to being wonderful.  So I really really liked it.  It’s as simple as that.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in January 2014.

First Impression: Part 1... and then some. (originally posted on 01/01/2014)

The Mini Book Club continues with myself and BFF!

January's selection is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, of which we had already decided upon at the beginning of December.

Here's an interesting exchange between me and BFF:

BFF:  I think it would be fun to finish this book and then go watch the movie and then discuss both.  What do you think?

Me:  (thoughtfully)  You know, when I first chose to put this book on my 'To Read' list and then officially bought it, I didn't really even know there was a movie.

BFF:  Even though the top of your paperback says, "Now a major motion picture"?

Me:  (pouts)

BFF:  Because I totally believe that.

Me:  I live under a rock.

BFF:  You really didn't choose this book for Book Club because it got made into a movie?  The trailers are really good!

Me:  I don't like doing that.  Rushing off to read a book just because it got made into a movie...  Even though I've done it before.  It feels like something my brother would do.  You know, following trends and hype.  Like, I got tired of everyone asking me whether I've seen The Hunger Games movie, and then a lot of people I know went to read the book after they saw the movie; like they wouldn't have paid attention to the book at all if a movie hadn't been made.

Like when my friend went to start reading the second book of Lord of the Rings after she saw the first movie...  Or something like that.

BFF:  There's nothing wrong with that.

Me:  It feels like over kill.

BFF:  You're a book snob, aren't you?

Me:  I might be a book snob.

But, yes.  It's true.  I have some snobby quirks about books that I will admit to.  For instance, I have a pet peeve about buying books with the movie cover on it...  And yet, I can't quite pinpoint why it is that I feel that it's wrong.

And I also admit that I live under a rock, because while I knew that the book was being made into a movie a while after I bought it, and while I actually saw the movie cover version of the paper back in the store when I bought my non-movie cover version... I never connected that The Book Thief was made into a movie recently.

I totally live under a boulder in a cave or something...

But back to the book.

I'm enjoying what I've read so far.  Mainly, I'm loving the natural, effortless wittiness of the narration, despite the dark and serious nature of the story itself.  There's a sardonic, dark humor quality to the writing that makes the story stand out really well.  Because otherwise, I'm not sure if I would find Liesel's back-story so compelling.  I mean, her life thus far has been sad and full of tragedy, and it really makes you think, but that time period was a terrible one known in history -- in a text book, you don't feel the pain and the sufferings, and you don't really see the problems.

But The Book Thief doing a great job so far of bringing the story, the time period, the characters, the melancholy... all of it alive rather vividly.

And, of course, there have been some moments already where I've felt some "FEELS".  I can't wait to finish it so that I can have a discussion with my BFF about it.  This will definitely be a winner as part of my 2014 Reading Challenge (and the first book I read this year as well)!

This update was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in January 2014.

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