. . . it’s a visceral response.
There are books you just can’t help but burn through. Whose stories grab you by the throat and won’t let you breathe until you’ve read the last word. Then, and only then, does the air rush into your lungs in a huge sigh of satisfaction.
Then there are the other books, those whose word craft is so masterful you can’t (indeed you mustn’t) rush through them. To do so would be a disservice to the prose, an insult to the writer.
The Book Thief is one such book.
I found so many places of literary brilliance that I wanted to stop time and again to re-read. And re-read a third time. And read aloud to my son, my husband, anyone who’d listen. I wanted to roll the words around on my tongue and methodically chew each one. And I found myself wishing that I too could craft such brilliance from words! But of course we each have our own style, don’t we. Our own gift, our own voice. And only by being true to our own voice will we be the writers we’re meant to be.
So as a voyeur, I relished author Markus Zusak’s choice of words and the placement thereof, so powerful in their simplicity as he describes people as being “single worded” or the sky over Auschwitz where “even the clouds were trying to get away.” How when you die, death will find you still “caked in your own body.” Or how “. . . her teeth elbowed each other for room in her mouth.” I could go on. And on and on. The book is, after all, over 500 pages long! And well worth every page, too. Filled to brimming with that kind of word craft. And it’s that uniqueness of verbiage that I love. It’s that kind of writing that gives me goosebumps.
Of course the story has to be there too. And in The Book Thief, the story is genius. The characters are so well created that they very much could come straight from a history book rather than a work of fiction. And they all surprised me . . . either right from the start or as they evolve throughout the course of the novel. I kept thinking over and over how this book should be required reading in high school history class. Sure it’s fiction. With Death as the narrator, how could it be anything but? And yet in it, history is felt, not told. And what better way to learn then to have your heart touched by your subject? I think I might have actually liked high school history if I’d had books like this to chose from!
Suffice to say, this is an incredible work of history “caked in” a work of fiction. You’ll either not want to put it down or, if you’re like me, you’ll want to take your time and enjoy every word.
Maybe even a couple of times!