Sunday, July 13, 2008

Death-lite (Books - The Book Thief by Markus Zusak)

Everyone has been blogging about how great this book is, so I picked up a copy of The Book Thief when I was in London and began reading it in snatches yesterday as I got ready for a dinner party at our house. Between cleaning and setting out the melon and prosciutto and the figs and cheese (I like lots of cold food at summer dinner parties so that a) we don't roast and b) I don't have to do any work after the guests come) I read the first 60 pages or so. It moves like wildfire, I will say that. It's a meta-fictional creation, that is, it plays with form - featuring little sections in bold surrounded by curlie-cues, bulleted lists, and so on. Liesel, a little Lutheran girl (or is she?), is passed on to foster-parents by her own mother after the death of her brother. The foster mother swears up a storm (in German) while the father offers sweet, accordion-playing companionship. The playfulness of the tone and youthful central character reminds me a little of Sasa Stanisic's How The Soldier Repairs the Gramophone, which I raved about here, but unlike that book The Book Thief's tone renders the action more distant rather than involving. Within the first few pages Liesel's brother dies and frankly I could have cared less. Neither the language nor the circumstances are particularly imaginative, that story took place during a real tragic historical event too. In addition here the narrator is not the child but death himself. So far I'm finding that's the one idea and it hasn't lifted itself above cute. He's death-lite - could I have a lemon with that? It's an international bestseller, the cover informs me, and everyone from the Guardian to People Magazine to the Canberra Times tells me it is a work of towering genius that will move me to tears. I am ready and willing to have my socks knocked off - both of them - but honestly, it's a holocaust story with a little girl in it who likes books - will anyone be willing to say it's not great and won't move me to tears? I'm barely into it so, who knows, I might change my mind but as yet I am unmoved and un-sock-knockoffable.

6 comments:

Sam Houston said...

Hang in there, Ted, but you may be the exception to the supposed rule that this one will knock your socks off (both of them, as you say).

While it didn't come close to moving me to tears, it did its job on my socks. I really enjoyed the book and found it to be cleverly structured with a memorable character or two...never did find my socks, either, come to think of it.

Ted said...

Sam - Actually, I'm 300 pages in now and I'm not exactly dazzled but I am taken with the story and, as you say, a few of the characters. It's got me in its grip for better of for worse. Hope you find those socks or perhaps they were worth the sacrifice.

Matt said...

The book does get a lot of noise, among the book bloggers and the bookstore customers. I plan to pick it up as well. It's a mystery right? I like the twist and turn of a metafiction.

Mark Thwaite said...

For your edification, Ted, I have an interview with Marcus here:

http://tinyurl.com/3lcowg

All best!

m.

Ted said...

Matt - I wouldn't say it is a mystery although there are some mysteries in it.

Ted said...

Mark - Thank you! I will read it as soon as I've finished the book (which I hope to get through today).