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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Late Review

And, there will be a later one. I'm assigning Meg to write a review of this book as an English assingment. We're running behind in our house. As usual.

I loved this book, even though it was heart wrenching at times. Like Mark, I am a fan of the happy ending. I despised Titanic for two things: Leo dies in the end (and there were Titanic survivors, they didn't have to kill him off) and that old lady chucked a bazillion dollar jewel into the ocean. Is she CRAZY!!! Whatever.

That said, I think if everyone survived this story, it wouldn't have been so powerful. I don't believe anyone in Germany, or even Europe got through that war without losing someone they loved. Death (the character) wouldn't have known Liesel if her life hadn't been touched with so much tragedy. And, he wouldn't have been as impressed with her if she wasn't an embodiment of hope during a really hopeless-seeming time. There was a HUGE dif between this and Forest of Hands and Teeth in that I loved Liesel and cared what happened to her. In the other book, I thought the protagonist (whose name escapes me) was a crazy, selfish witch who was willing to sacrifice lives just to see the ocean. Ok, I live by the ocean, and I like it, but really!? Liesel and her foster family were good people, language notwithstanding, who made incredibly unselfish, difficult choices in dangerous times.

I loved the writing style, (although I coulda done without the language), but when I read the first couple of chapters out loud, Sam said: "what?! this guy thinks he's Shakespeare?" I thought it was very original and descriptive in a way that was unexpected. I think telling the story from the perspective of Death as a character was genius. His observations on humanity were very insightful and I really enjoyed that.

Overall, I really liked this book a lot. I love historical fiction, but so much of what's written about this era is so difficult to read. Also, the Germans are nearly always the "bad guys", when in reality, many of them were good people who were stuck in an unpossible situation. THere were glimmers of hope amid Hitler's craziness.

On this topic, you should watch the Lisa Kudrow episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?", you can find it on Hulu. She traces her family back to Poland and Russia during the Holocaust and finds some heart-wrenching stories there. But, also a great happy ending.


Markie23 said...

I agree there is no comparison between Liesel and whats-her-name. There's not really even any comparison between the two books. The comparison is how I felt after reading several chapters of each. In the beginning of TFOHAT I thought it was awesome. I couldn't wait to find out about the secrets of this village and the sisterhood, and the secret behind the woman in the red cape, and how she turned into a zombie, and why she had super zombie speed, and what lay beyond their village, etc. But instead it went nowhere, and most of them died.
In The Book Thief I was eager to find out how this little girls life would change for the better after losing her entire family, and then how they would end up saving Max, and how Rudy would escape becoming a Nazi soldier, and how he would finally win his kiss from Liesel and how they would end up together in the end.
Instead, Max gets recaptured, beaten and who knows what else. They didn't even give the story of how he managed to survive after his re-capture; not an interesting story I guess. And liesel's new family and Rudy get blown up - the end. Like I said in my review, I would rather have seen her get blown up too, than have to go through another lost family - picking through the blown up bits of their remains. Too cruel.
One part that bugged me also, is that you would think that Liesel, who was slapped by her foster dad and given a very strict warning about exposing their secret, would have more sense than to call out to Max and then run out to him as he is being marched through town. She's lucky that she only earned him a good beating, and didn't get her family shot - although what did it matter in the end - shot, blown-up, what's the diff, right?
So Michelle, did you feel, like a lot of the other readers, that Max and Liesel got married in the end and lived happily ever after? I pictured Max, as not only being much older, but kind of like a brother, or uncle. I didn't get any "romantic" love connection between them whatsoever. Rudy was her age, and the one she should have ended up with. It kinda gives me the creeps to picture her with Max for some reason.
Also, do think its possible to live a happy normal life after witnessing so much death and evil in the world? I have this feeling that many people who came back from Vietnam were never the same again - including my own brother. Liesel lost her dad (can't remember how - did they say?), watched her brother die in front of her eyes, saw her mother abandon her, witnessed the horrible mistreatment of the Jews, she saw how almost everyone in her community was damaged in some way including the Mayors wife, and the mean lady that she read to who lost a son in the war, and then the other one who committed suicide, and then saw her new family, and her best friend/future husband blown up. I just can't picture her, OR Max ever really getting over it all, without being just as damaged as the rest of the people in her community.

ShelBailey said...

Markie, I don't think her mother abandoned her, I think she was sure she was going to be imprisoned for being a communist...it appeared that the lady who took Liesel to her foster family was a government worker, maybe she'd already been sentenced.

Anyway, other than that. I'm not sure I see her with Max in the end, I'm with you on that, although i don't think he was that much older than her. And, maybe by the time she saw Max in that group of prisoners, she'd learned that love and compassion are more important to humanity than life.

I do know a few people who came back from Vietnam, and they were all changed. But not all of them were changed for the worse. There are people who've seen and endured unspeakable tragedy and survived to be good people. We just don't hear about them as much. Doesn't mean they are the same, just happy to be alive, and willing to go on living life. It's not what happens to you, but how you deal with it. Didn't one of the GA's say that?

It's kind of interesting to think about which type I would be...it's hard to say. I'd like to think I'd not be bitter, etc, but who knows? Hopefully, I won't have to find out....

Markie23 said...

Well, I'm sure Liesel's mom had good reason to drop her off. I just don't know if Liesel was old enough to fully understand. Regardless of the reason, the end result was that she still lost everyone in her family, not once, but twice.
And I just felt like Liesel's love and compassion for Max and for Hans and Rosa would cause her to not want to bring any more attention and harm to them, by exposing their connection.
K, here's another question. Do you think she kept stealing books? Maybe she just checked them out from the library and never returned them. I wonder if she became a hoarder. Now that would be a good story. :o)

Jenny ESP said...

Amen!<--to Shel's review. I loved what you said about Death not having a story to tell if Liesel's story hadn't been so tradgic-yet-hopeful.

Death would have told us if she had gone on to have a tradgic existence. He doesn't sugar coat things.

Seeing Markie so upset on behalf of a fictional character's life makes me relieved we didn't ship him off to Vietnam when he was a lad. I'm afraid we would have lost him for good. My dad was drafted, btw, but he's always been a no-excuses-type, just like Max and Liesel. Who I really feel sorry for is all those Indians living in Internet deserts, who will never have a chance to read this discussion if we don't do something about it!

Markie23 said...

I have a great idea for a new book. The whole thing is narrated by syphilis.
I also have a great idea for a rewriting of The Wizard of OZ where the only survivors (both in OZ and Kansas) are Dorothy (who has been burned beyond recognition by the wicked witch), and the leader of the Lollipop Guild.

ShelBailey said...

Ok, Markie. Not EVERY book is better for killing all the characters off. But, some are not bad just BECAUSE they do.

I like this book, it made me think about and wonder how I would handle the same situations. Most of the time I read for entertainments sake, and sometimes to learn something. I thought this was a nice mix of both.