Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Kit & Clowder Book Club Month 3 - January/February 2015

The book choices for the month 3 - to be report on during the third weekend of February were:-

Book                                      Votes
The Book Thief                       +40
Lies of Locke Lamora           +18 (my vote)
Cinder                                       +17
Shiver                                        +11

HERE IS A SMALL FACT - YOU ARE GOING TO DIE 1939.  Nazi Germany.  The country is holding its breath.  Death has never been busier.  Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with foster family on Himmel Street.  her parents have been taken away to a concentration cam.  Liesel steals books,  This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.  SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION - THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH  It's a small story, about: a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter and quite a lot of thievery.  ANOTHER THING YOU SHOULD KNOW - DEATH WILL VISIT THE BOOK THIEF THREE TIMES.

The most interesting thing about this book (its hook), and indeed, to a degree, its main selling point, is that it is narrated by Death who tells of the three times that he meets Liesel, the person who becomes the book thief and through the course of this tale he also describes many other people that cross paths with the book thief who lives in a desolate German village. 

All the characters are written with a wry hand, they are rough and ready, occasionally brutal and unlikeable, yet all are world worn, even the children.  Yet they are all able to show genuine love, tenderness, and generosity.  The one failing though is that these characters are flat and lack fine detail.  More depth could have been achieved is the novel had been told by Liesel herself (a first-hand account if you will).  Instead, Liesel comes across as rather stiff and stilted possibly due to Death’s detachment from the story.  This reader much preferred the lesser characters of Rudy and Max.

This book about the power of words and language makes sure that the dialogue of each character is appropriate for their age.  The developing interactions between the characters were interesting and it was the little idiosyncrasies about these characters that give the reader something to identify with, even if some of these are pretty ugly in places.

This reader appreciated the way Death transgresses onto other topics, the way we do I real life.  This detail gives the reader something to hang on to in this story and makes Death more lifelike and likeable.  Death is also portrayed as not being blasé about death but rather seemed to be deeply affected by the numbers that died during World War II, to paraphrase Death- Hitler kept him very busy.

It is lovely to have another account of ordinary Germans (as opposed Nazis, Jewish accounts, or historical accounts) who are experiencing the profound effect of the Nazi regime.  None are really safe be they Jews, Jewish sympathisers or law abiding citizens who are blond haired and blue eyed, especially if they are not a member of the Party.

This book is very lyrical, but in places both disjointed and overall poignant.  One aspect of the story telling (which I initially found annoying) was the bits that were in emboldened these which are additional details or explanations made by Death.  They sort of added to the story but are not really a part of it.

On problem I had with this book was that there wasn’t really any plot, which necessitated the ending (prior to the prologue).  Rather it was a remembrance of certain instances where Death encountered Liesel.  Now I can honestly say that the only film that consciously makes me cry is The King and I; I won’t say I cry at the drop of a hat but I do cry, in the venture is encompassing enough,  At the end of this novel I did nor ry.  Don’t get me wrong I was touched but not enough to outright cry

This book is not a fast, I must find out what is going on, read but rather a considered read that takes time.  It is rather long and some of the hyperbole could be reduced.  The ending of the book is suitable although sad.  The addition of the epilogue makes the journey complete.  That said though this reader would have liked to see what happened to Max and Liesel between the end of the book and the epilogue.  In short this book is brilliant, poignant, and thought provoking. 

If, after reading this novel, you want to read more about this disastrous chapter in our history this reader would heartedly recommend two books she read as a teenager and young adult which were the brilliant The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom or the YA version Corrie Ten Boom: Watchmakers Daughter by Jean Watson.

I liked this book and rated it as such on Amazon (4 stars) and Goodreads (3 stars).

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