The Book Thief Face to Face Book Discussion Details:
- Date: March 23, 2013
- Place: Cafe Breton, Greenfield District, Mandaluyong City
- Time: 3 PM to 6 PM
- Discussion Leader: Beejay
- Attendees: Me, Aaron, Ace, Alexa (late), Bennard, Cary, Celina, JL, Louize, Mae (late), Ranee, Sandra, Tina, Tricia, Veronica, Ycel
- Food I Ate: Tuna sandwich, Le Magnifique (banana crêpe smothered with chocolate syrup and almonds)
- Post-discussion Activity: White Elephant Book Steal (I brought Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro; I took home The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman), collection of book donations for the outreach
- After the Book Discussion: Outreach meeting at the park in front, ate dinner at the nearby Kanin Club, ate ice cream at the park (again) and hung out until the guards ordered us to go home.
- Other Nominated Books: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Thoughts from the Members:
I can’t believe it. Im done and it was heartbreaking but brilliant.
The book generally is serious but has a fun touch to it–precious shocking moments never come as shocking because bits and pieces of these are spilled by the narrator, chapters before they happen, as you read, you’ll think “this is surely when it happens”, but it doesn’t..there is always a better timing for that..or not.
Now, there is nothing much more interesting than a story narrated by Death himself. Through his eyes we’ve seen the putrid colors of war and felt the oppression, deprivation and hopelessness brought by it. World War 2 is a picture of destruction and hate, a subject matter that is emotionally hard. It would take a very talented poet to bring something good out of that. Such is Markus Zusak. He has a sharp imagination and outstanding talent with words. A very powerful storyteller by my opinion.
Markus Zusak is superb. He has an original way of playing with words that makes his work different from other authors.
Story-wise, I found the author’s efforts to create something interesting about the Holocaust as much too obvious for my taste. After all, how much more can you add to something that’s already common knowledge? I had also been wondering why it was entitled “The Book Thief” and its connection to the Holocaust setting of the novel, and realized at the end that it merely described who the main protagonist, Liesel Meminger, was, whose love for books (which pushed her to steal them) was a mere obiter in the greater scheme of things.
The Book Thief made me reflect on several things, especially with how words and reading played such a big deal in the characters’ lives. That was my favorite part, how there was so much emphasis on reading and the power of words. I liked how it was illustrated in the book and how it showed that even if words were used for evil, you can use it for good, too, and using it for the latter touches so many people, even Death himself. I’m all about words, you see, and I could really relate with Liesel when she found her words and how she “…would wring it out like the rain.” (p.80) It made me wonder if I can still remember how it is not to have words at my disposal, and not to have the books where I have access to so many words. Furthermore, it made me wonder: do I use my words like the Führer? Or do I use them like Liesel?
What I love the most about the story are the characters. They are flawed but easy to love and understand. When the book thief, Liesel Meminger, arrived at Himmel Street after the death of her brother, she met her foster parents: the potty-mouthed Rosa Hubermann and the accordionist and painter Hans Hubermann. She met a boy with a lemon-colored hair who painted himself black and ran like Jesse Owens named Rudy Steiner. The mayor’s fragile wife Ilsa Hermann. The Jew fist-fighter and was a boy full of stupid gallantry named Max Vadenburg. They left a mark on me because they are different of what I perceived of Germans during the time of war—all of them as evil and inhumane—but they were different. They were not similar of those guys from the Nazi. They have hearts capable of loving (even a Jew!) in spite of being brainwashed to hate. Also, even in the midst of the war, we can still see the beauty of love and relationship among these people.
Death is the narrator in the story and you know that he has a job to do when he describes the shifting colors in the sky (“The day was gray, the color of Europe.”). He gives a lot of spoilers about what will happen to the characters in the story, and this annoyed me a lot. I wondered a gazillion times what Zusak was playing at every time he did this (I lost count). However, when the event that Death alluded to finally unfolded, it hit me full in the face. Zusak’s words were at once terrible, beautiful, heart-wrenching. Even the way he described the souls of the occupants of Himmel Street was poetic. How can dying be so beautiful? Then I forgave him for all the spoilers. And more so because the characters I love most lived a full life and survived the holocaust.
My write-up here.
Photos courtesy of Louize.