Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - Book Review #132

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she discovers something she can't resist- books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.

With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

Experimental fiction is what The Book Thief is called by many reviewers. Experimental fiction, which deliberately seeks to break established writing conventions, is not for everyone. Experimental fiction writers more interested in reinventing writing craft than in being understood. However, some of these literally experiments later on becoming established writing conventions for specific genre or style and some gets forgotten as an unsuccessful attempt. This is not for me to decide to which category The Book Thief will belong, this is time’s business. I can only share my opinion and hope to be either prophetic or afraid to be called improvident.

I read my fair share of experimental fiction. My reactions are always unpredictable: I might love the book from the first sentence and be surprised that it considered an experimental fiction, because it reads so natural to me; I might hate the book from its very beginning till its end, without even a vague clue why “that” was published and how anyone can call “it” a book; I might also start reading a book with a neutral attitude and by the end the book, the story might grow on me and I would call it an ok book. The Book Thief fell into the third category for me. Yes, I finished it and even did it without any disgust. However the only feeling left afterwards was * shrug *.


I am a soulless, heartless bitch that didn’t care about poor orphan girl’s story set during holocaust in Nazi Germany.

End of Disclaimer
and continuation of rant (what? You expected an actual book review?).

I guess the reason why I didn’t care about the story or cry, as many people claim to do after finishing The Book Thief, is my quite wide knowledge of the WWII events and stories –real people’s stories read from multiple non-fiction books, the story of my great-grandmother who lived through the war and real stories of veterans who went through this war. And the stories of these people were so much more horrifying, the situations of these people were so much more desperate than Liesel Meminger.

I wish I could at least say that Markus Zusak picked an original narrator for the story – Death, but I can’t, because Terry Pratchett (and he is not the only one, I just cannot remember anyone else at the moment) did this a decade earlier. I wish that I could call the voice of the narrator an original, but I can’t, because it reeked of cynicism and humanity, which a cliché portrait of Death in literature, movies and TV. I wish I could find some originality in the theme – the girl is saved from mortal danger by the words and books; and irony – the girl was put into this mortal danger because of the words and books, but I can’t once again, because this theme is as old as written word and probably even older.

I’m scrutinizing this book, because of countless rewards it got and because of innumerable fans that read and reread and cry over this book, so naturally my expectations were very high. I’m not trying to piss off this army of fans by saying that their beloved book was only ok to me and not very original, it just didn’t live up to my expectations. So the bottom line is – nothing to see, moving alone…

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Top Ten Books I Want To Reread - Top Ten Tuesday #3

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Books I Want To Reread.

I’m very rarely rereading books because of multiple reasons: first, I just simply do not have enough time to read all the books I want to read, not to mention to reread these that I already read; second, I have too good of a memory and it is usually boring for me to reread entire book, because I remember it down to each insignificant detail; and third, if and when I’m rereading a book that I really loved from the first time, I almost never have the same range of emotions that I had on my first read. Nevertheless, I still have a desire to reread some books. Here are ten of them in no particular order that have been on my mind lately.
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I have read it only once and loved it dearly. However, I read it before I knew English good enough to attempt reading it in its original language, so I always wanted to reread it in English (I have a thing to read books, watch movies, etc without translation if possible). And as of late, I just simply wanted to reread it because it has been almost ten years since I read it first.
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. This is one of my favorite books that I read in High School and I never reread it, because of the reasons I stated above. I have been thinking about it a lot in a pasted two-three months, maybe it is time to rerad it?
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. It’s only and at the same time already been a year, since I first read it. I didn’t seem to stop thinking about it. I’m not sure if I’m yet ready to read the whole book, but I would love to go through some moments that I especially liked.
  • The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. I read it when I was fourteen at summer camp. One girl brought this book with her, but wasn’t reading it. I never heard about this book before. However when I finished the only book that I brought (my mother couldn't believe that I will be spending time reading in the summer camp), I borrowed it from the girl, started reading and couldn’t stop until I finished. I returned the book to the girl, left camp and never saw neither girl, nor The Thorn Birds. I should get myself my own copy and reread it one day.
  • Angelique Series by Sergeanne Golon. I stopped reading romances when I was about fourteen. Somehow I outgrew and got bored with them. Once in a while I’m getting an urge to read a romance, but now I don’t know any authors. I don’t know who is bad and who is incredible. And I simply cannot pick anything, because everything sounds the same to me (no offence to romance readers). However for the cases when I need to read a romance, I have Angelique Series that I have been rereading since I was eleven. I never read further than seventh book (there is thirteen books in the series). In my opinion, the quality is seriously decreasing after sixth book.
  • Shopaholic Series by Sophie Kinsella. Sophie Kinsella is one of only two known to me authors (the second one is Oscar Wilde) that make me laugh until my stomach hurts. I’m thinking about rereading Shopaholic Series when I need a dose of silliness in my life.
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. This is one of my all time favorite books. I reread it countless times when I was a child, but I didn’t reread it once in past ten years. I need to revisit the Wonderland.
  • The Door into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein. This is my favorite Heinlein’s book and one of my favorite sci-fi books. It contains all things that I enjoy: love, betrayal, time travel, happy ending and the most adorable fictional cat.
  • Stainless Steel Rat Series, Deathworld Trilogy and pretty much anything by Harry Harrison. I love Harry Harrison and haven’t been reading any of his books for a long time.
  • Sword of Truth Series by Terry Goodkind. It is written at the level of your regular six-grader – terrible. Nonetheless, I like the story and recently I’ve wanted to read some epic fantasy.
Drawing the line, it looks like I’m tired of classics and literally fiction and I need some genre fiction on my reading list.