Like I have said before, a few of the selections on my project reading list are future classic hopefuls, in other words contemporary books that people may still be reading 50 or 100 years from now. I recently added The Book Thief by Markus Zusak to the list under this very premise and I am very glad I did. I will not bore you with another plot summary of this book, but I must say the following:
First of all, the narration in this book is genius. Who knew Death could be so insightful, so sensitive, so humorous…so human? Death as the narrator is not creepy at all, but really rather beautiful.
Second, Zusak’s use of descriptive language in this book is simply dazzling. He describes things in ways I had never thought to describe them before and yet it seems as if there could never have existed any other possible way to depict them properly.
Here are some of my favorite examples:
1. “The buildings appear to be glued together, mostly small houses and apartment blocks that look nervous.”
2. Describing Liesel upon her arrival on Himmel Street: “Coat hanger arms.”
3. “The soft-spoken words fell off the side of the bed, emptying to the floor like powder.”
4. “They could hear nothing, but the manner in which Hans Junior shrugged loose was loud enough.”
5. About Max: “Everything was so desperately noisy in the dark when he moved … he felt like a man in a paper suit.”
6. About Rosa: “One or two gasped at the sight – a small wardrobe of a woman with a lipstick sneer and chlorine eyes. This. Was the legend.”
7. “His eyes were the color of agony, and weightless as he was, he was too heavy for his legs to carry.”
8. “As she crossed the river, a rumor of sunshine stood behind the clouds.”
Third, this book provides a different perspective than many examples of Holocaust related YA literature. The reader understands how WWII also brought hardship to the German people under Nazi rule. Granted, the hardships could not compare to the horror facing the Jewish population, but I think it is important to know that the Germans also went hungry and faced loss, etc.
I am not Jewish (in fact I have non-Jewish German ancestors and my grandmother has always been quite proud of her German heritage), but I have always felt like I carry a small piece of the souls of those Jewish people who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazi party with me somehow. I have dark hair and eyes…it could have been me. It is so important that we never, ever forget.
“On June 23, 1942, there was a group of French Jews in a German prison, on Polish soil. The first person I took was close to the door, his mind racing, then reduced to pacing, then slowing down, slowing down…
Please believe me when I tell you that I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born. I even kissed a few weary, poisoned cheeks. I listened to their last, gasping cries. Their vanishing words. I watched their love visions and freed them from their fear…
Sometimes I imagined how everything looked above those clouds, knowing without question that the sun was blond, and the endless atmosphere was a giant blue eye…
They were French, they were Jews, and they were you.” – Death