Thursday, October 4, 2007

THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak

Okay, I confess I'm not even a third of the way through this novel. We're moving house, yanno, and this is a novel which refuses to be sped-read. Did you catch that? THIS IS A NOVEL WHICH REFUSES TO BE SPED-READ! I had actually started on a terrific old Science Fiction novel about time travelers visiting Atlantis, ATLANTIS ENDGAME by Andre Norton. Really cool. But, this gem came in and I dropped ATLANTIS like a hot dilithium chrystal. Not that ATLANTIS isn't great, but THE BOOK THIEF is awesome.

THE BOOK THIEF is told from the point-of-view of Death. Yes, Death. Cheery, hmm? Actually, he's not gloomy and, believe me, I hate gloomy. Death is fascinating. From his perspective, we follow Liesel and her brother and her mother on a train bound for foster parents. The foster parents have agreed, for money, to take care of Liesel and her brother, because they're not Jewish and do not belong to any of the groups on the Nazi hit list. You know, like homosexuals and Gypsis and other people who were born of a different race or have excercised the human right of choosing lifestyle or religion different than what the Nazis of World War II Germany dictated.

On the train trip, Liesel's brother dies and is buried in a cemetary in a nameless town on the route. Death was there when the brother died and Liesel interested him, so he went to the funeral too. On the way out of the cemetary, Liesel stole her first book. It had been dropped in the snow by a grave digger. Now, Death's interest is really sparked. That's about where I left off.

You'll be mesmerized by Death's prose on the first page. It's haunting and totally not stereotypical. According to the blurb, Liesel hides from the Nazis during the war, a bleak, starving time devoid of almost all human compassion. Books save her soul and, therefore, her life. Death comes calling, but he leaves empty-handed because Liesel survives.

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