Friday, December 27, 2013

Fiction Friday (23)

On Christmas morning, I woke up early to finish reading the last ten pages The Book Thief, a book I had started reading around Thanksgiving. I'm not sure why I put off reading this novel for long. Part of it lies in the fact that until recently I didn't know it was a World War II novel, which is a genre I find fascinating. Another part of it has to do with my avoidance of books that have become overwhelming bestsellers. I often find myself disappointed with books that such a wide audience finds abundance praise. But I put those feelings aside for this book, and I'm glad I did. Enjoy.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
(Knopf 2006)

It makes me happy when I read a book that has spent so much time on the bestseller's list and it turns out to be as rewarding, and deserving, as this novel was.

From the opening scene where a six-year old Liesel watches her little brother die in the snow of a train yard, The Book Thief is a gripping story of a child living through a world that ceases to make sense. As she goes to live with strangers in a strange town during the onset of World War II in Germany, Liesel finds ways to adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances that surround her. She takes comfort in the books she periodically steals from various places, and in the love of her foster father Hans. But just as she begins to settle into a stable environment, her world is once again turned upside down when her family takes in a young man named Max, vowing to hide him from Nazis.

Max's presence has a dramatic impact on Liesel, opening her eyes to the absurdity of Jewish persecution in her homeland. The two of them quickly becomes close. They are both haunted in their dreams by those who they've left behind, and they are both refugees from their past. In Liesel, Max discovers a new wonder for life, living through her experiences. And when circumstances force him to leave, Liesel once again must try to find her place and come to terms with the reality of life in war time Germany.

Even though the story is bleak, it's humanity is uplifting and encouraging.

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