Oh, my goodness. I have been reading and hearing about The Book Thief by Markus Zusak for a long time, but I've just now finally read it myself. To be perfectly honest, I picked up my copy over a year ago at the used bookstore in my library and even though I had heard how wonderful it was, I wasn't in a hurry to read it. I have so many books on my "To Read..." list that I have to pick what sounds good that day and a book about the holocaust didn't exactly sound like a fun read. However, when it was my turn to host book club, I went with this one. (Everyone loved it!) And I was right, a book about a young girl's perspective of the holocaust in 1940s Germany wasn't what I would call fun, but it was brilliant.
Zusak is an extraordinary author and The Book Thief is beautifully written. The haunting imagery he uses brings the reader right in to the story and the characters are so well developed they feel like friends. Even Death, the narrator of this enthralling novel, seems more like a companion and advocate than the evil Grim Reaper so often envisioned.
I think the most shocking thing about this book, for me anyway, was that it wasn't pure fiction. How could this have really happened? I have a simple understanding of the holocaust that probably most publicly educated Americans have. I've read about it, I've seen documentaries (though I admit I skipped Schindler's List because I didn't want those images in my head), but through this book, my eyes have been opened to so much more. It is easy to lump all Germans at that time into the Nazi box, but I now see that there were many Germans who were not in agreement with Hitler and his ideas. The fear was so strong that it was difficult for most people to stand and fight. It is possible that they never knew that the people standing on either side of them wanted to fight, too.
Of course, the next logical question to me is this: What can we do to make sure nothing like it ever happens again? We must be involved with and aware of the world around us. We must speak up. We must help those in need and never turn our backs.
And now, I must get off my soap box and go read something lighter. This was a wonderful book and one I really believe everyone should read. Have you read it? Tell me what you thought.