The Book Thief

This was the second time I've read Markus Zusak's The Book Thief (it's coming up for next month's book group) and I have to say that I approached it with a little trepidation. I've struggled to find a way of expressing how I feel about the experience of reading this book, and finally I came up with this: it feels like walking along a beautiful shoreline, barefoot, on sharp stones.

The first time I read it, the discomfort of the sharp edges underfoot was overwhelming. The Book Thief is written in a very distinctive, deliberate style. Almost every adjective choice is unexpected: wooden tears, glittering anger, the sun was blond, her cardboard face, the bumpiness of love. You can never forget that you're reading a text; it's impossible to lose yourself in the story, because the jarring (often apt and beautiful, sometimes awkward) language constantly jerks you back. And that's without even mentioning that the book is narrated by the character of Death...

On second reading, I was able to adjust better to the language choices, and admire them, and find my way to the actual story. I could lift my eyes to the landscape I was passing through, and appreciate its shape and sorrow. I'm glad I've read it twice.

The Book Thief has been incredibly successful, and ardently loved, and made into a movie (which I haven't seen). It would be a very hard act to follow.

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