Sep 10, 2008

The Book Thief - Zusak (BC Sept 08)

This unusual book immediately engages the reader in wisps of fog. It's different. More of an experience written in pastel colors. The story-teller is not precisely death, but rather the essence that collects souls. Death happens - and the soul collector arrives instantly and relates observations on the life just ended. They, the observations, are chronologically gathered to become the "The Book Thief".

The period covered begins after World War I and ends just after World War II.

The central character is a young orphaned girl named Liesel. The book begins in 1939 when she is 9rs old and her younger brother dies. From that moment forward the book describes:

  • the spread of European anti-Semitism,
  • the gathering and destruction of the Jews,
  • the power of government to dominate centuries of civilization,
  • the acquiescence of the German professional classes, industrious laborers and farmers, and genuinely devout religious leaders.

My personal choice as the most interesting character is Liesel's step father Hans Hubermann. During the course of the book he becomes a hero. In the bleak surroundings of terror and death, Hans stands out as a person that can clearly tell right from wrong.

The cast of characters live in Germany during a time of national defeat. World War I and the later imposition of the harsh controls of the Treaty of Versailles, emasculated the collective German character. Rampant misery and discontent prevailed over the entire nation and resulted in the engaging rise of the National Socialist Party.
Led by Hitler and other ambitious political minions, the Nazi's sought to regain supremacy. Their scapegoat for all ailments were the Jews among them. Their persecution is described in gruesome detail - as is their subsequent extermination.
The book is at once a recital of known facts as seen through the eyes of victims and described by the collector of souls. It is absorbing, powerful, masterfully imagined and continually presses the reader to turn to the next page.
Once read, I venture to say, this ultimately sad (but outstanding) book will stay in the reader's mind forever.