Spoiler Warning

Book reviews and discussions may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Book The Color Of Cat Vomit

He was eight months older than Liesel and had bony legs, sharp teeth,
gangly blue eyes, and hair the color of lemon.

awkwardly tall and spindly; lank and loosely built.

What part of that definition could possibly be descriptive of eyes? This is just one example of the writing style in The Book Thief, that I had a very hard time getting past. It was like the author was trying too hard to use big words, and descriptive imagery and it just didn’t work for me. I felt like the author was a 5th grader trying very hard to write at a college level.
More examples?

“In Liesel’s mind, the moon was stitched into the sky that night. Clouds were stitched around it.”

“Rudy was interested, and confused. The moon was undone now, free to move and rise and fall and drip on the boy’s face, making him nice and murky, like his thoughts.”

“He ran his hand through his sleepy hair”

“He adjusted his position and his bones creaked like itchy floorboards.”

“Either way, it fell across them as their metallic eyes clashed like tin cans in the kitchen”

“Papa’s eyes started corroding.”

“When she looked up the sky was crouching”

“Certainly, there was sweat, and the wrinkled pants of breath, stretching out in front of her.”

“All of them were light, like the cases of empty walnuts. Smoky sky in those places. The smell like a stove, but still so cold.”

Ok, enough of that. While the writing style seemed to me like so much indulgent nonsense, I got used to it. I could easily have forgiven it and ended up liking, or possibly even loving this book, if not for the fact that, well… everybody got blown up.

Listen, I know war is horrible. I know that lots of people get blown up. I know that there are still lessons to be learned from all this tragedy. I’d just prefer to read a story about some people that maybe didn’t all get blown up. I think, in comparison, about many of the stories of Charles Dickens, who wrote frequently about orphans and outcasts who went through terrible hardships: Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations; and also Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. In all these books, there was great heartache and tragedy, and yet, in the end there was also great reward and redemption.

I found very little reward and redemption in The Book Thief. The fact that Liesel and Max survived in the end was little consolation for all the darkness, suffering, and depression throughout the book. Yes, they survived, but irreparably damaged, and scarred – like keys repeatedly scratched along the surface of an apprehensive table the color of Columbian coffee beans. It would have almost been more a more merciful ending if Liesel had gotten blown up with the rest of her family and friends.

But Uncle Markie, didn’t you love the characters? Didn’t you love Hans, and Rudy, and Max? Yes, I did love the characters; and that made it worse. Lisel said it herself very nicely:

“Don’t make me happy. Please, don’t fill me up and let me think that something good can come of any of this.”

The fact the author spoiled his own ending half way through the book didn’t help. When I read that everyone that Liesel knew was going to die, I allowed myself to imagine that maybe this was a story about cheating death, and that the author was perhaps referring to something that would have happened if not for certain events. But no… Liesel was right, nothing good came from any of it.

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