Monday, June 4, 2012

Just read: The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

A few months ago while out for drinks over a hockey game, I was recommended this book by a friends cousin who swore that it was a great read. It was so good that she said this was her FAVORITE book ever. That's huge to say something is your favorite book. I have put in a ton of thought into what my favorite book is and every so often see if a new one has usurped it's title. At this point, and for the last 15 years, Brave New World has held the title in a stranglehold.

So since I needed something to read while at a work conference up in Kelowna, I borrowed The Book Thief from the library and proceeded to spend my two day conference plugging away at it.

The story is narrated by Death and is about the story of Liesel Meminger, a girl given up to live in foster care outside of Munich during World War II. Death has a witty personality and has quite the soft spot for this wiry girl. Even though her foster parents are introduced as vulgar poor people, by the end of the book you end up loving them so, so much; especially her foster father Hans.

I don't read that many Holocaust set books for several reasons. The first being that after I read Elie Wiesel's Night well I really thought that was enough dark bleak Holocaust lit than I need for the rest of my life. The second and this one being the more influencing on my book decisions of this topic is that through my family in Hungary, we have enough first hand stories. But that is a topic for another post.

But this story was good. It didn't gloss over details of how difficult it was to be poor or what consequences you had to bear if you didn't proclaim your support for the Nazi party. And yet it was cynical enough and had well placed sentimental moments that you didn't feel like the story was too heavy. The pacing of the story was well done and the 'drawings' that were included of the book she received were well placed.

The book was marketed as YA fiction, which I love YA fiction, but based on the writing style it really didn't feel like a young adult novel. I feel like labeling it as YA fiction is doing this book some injustice. I remember coming across this book a few years ago and dismissed it because it was just another YA fiction book about WWII and didn't think it was worth my time. My initial judgement is that YA fiction couldn't possibly do the content or setting justice. That things would be overlooked and details glossed over. This book doesn't do that and to me it was a bad marketing strategy by the publisher to label it as YA fiction.

Was it the best book ever? No, no I don't think so. It was a great read and one that I'm glad I have read it once but as for the best ever, I'm going to have to disagree with my friend's cousin on this one, BNW still wins this one for now.