Tag Archives: death

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

book thief

“It amazes me what humans can do, even when streams are flowing down their faces and they stagger on…”  ~~ Markus Zusak in The Book Thief

“Please believe me when I tell you that I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born. I even kissed a few weary, poisoned cheeks. I listened to their last, gasping cries. Their vanishing words. I watched their love visions and freed them from their fear.”  ~~ Markus Zusak in The Book Thief

From Lauren’s Perspective:

I spent the last hour trying to find the perfect quote to begin this review.  What I was left with at the end was a page full of beautifully crafted quotations that all do justice to how amazing this story was.  To pick just one seemed impossible, so I picked two.

This book was exquisitely written and profound in a way not many books are.  There was meaning and a lesson on every page.  The fact that this story was once again categorized as a book for Young Adults blows my mind.  I have read many adult books and few of them are as amazing as this.  I don’t even know where to begin.

Without spoiling the story, I will give away the key points.  This novel is narrated by death and tells the story of a young girl living in a town in Germany during World War 2.  She has a fascination with words, and as we follow her, she learns to read, write, and even tell her own story.  Hers is one that is beautifully tragic and haltingly optimistic for such a heartbreaking story.  Her life is hard in a way few of us can imagine and how she lives through it is remarkable.  The stories main character, Liesel Meminger, begins as a precocious 11 year old who is abandoned by her only real family and left to live with complete strangers.  She takes a liking to her foster father immediately, as Hans Hubberman is kind and smart and everything you could wish for in a role model.  It takes longer for her to warm up to her foster mother, but despite Rosa’s gruff exterior, she is also loving and sensitive and wise.  Watching their bond grow throughout the novel is fascinating to behold.  They truly become one another’s family, tighter than blood, and it is the optimism that holds the story together through the terrifying war that killed millions.

The narrative is what really takes this story to another level.  We, as readers, are given a view of Liesel’s life from the time her mother takes her to live with the Hubberman’s, until her death through death’s eyes himself.  From his perspective, he writes, “I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”   The beauty in death’s vision is the best way to experience this book.  We are also given an interesting view of the war.  We travel with death as he reaps the souls of the millions that died during this harrowing time, Germans and Jewish alike, and we are made to feel sorry for everyone who suffers.  This unique perspective, and Zusak’s interesting style makes this novel into a true work of art.  He litters the pages with definitions, spoilers, and facts about the war; he gives his reader multiple perspectives to consider, and he does so in such a way that leaves you almost breathless at the result.  I can honestly say I have never encountered a novel quite as different and breathtakingly lovely as this.

Zusak crafts his words with such extreme care that you would be hard pressed to find a single word in this novel that didn’t fit exactly where it was as though it was destined to be in that sentence from the beginning of time.  He writes, “His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do – the best ones. The ones who rise up and say “I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come.” Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out. More of them have already found their way to other places.”  To speak of death in such a delicate way is a talent that few have managed as well as he has.  He speaks of life, love, regret, belief, morals, and of course, death, with such care, you can feel the passion behind every word.

Above this already finely crafted novel, Zusak has created stories within his stories.  He shows us picture book drawings from another character, Max, that riddle the pages with their interesting style and perfect knack for adding more wonder to this story.

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These stories act as reminders of the importance of words, the importance of family and friends and the importance of story telling.  I honestly cannot give enough praise to this perfectly put together novel.

There are so many  brilliant quotes I still want to add to this review, but don’t for fear of spoiling the intricacies of the story, so I will leave saying this.  Read this book.  Read this book now.  You will not regret it.

Rating

Plot – 4/5
Writing/Style/Form – 6/5 (YES I CAN DO THAT!!)
Characters – 5/5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value – 4/5

Overall Score – 19/20

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A Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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From Krista’s Perspective:

Almost everyone is obsessed with leaving a mark upon the world. Bequeathing a legacy.  Outlasting death.  We all want to be remembered. I do too. That’s what bothers me most, is being another unremembered casualty in the ancient and inglorious war against disease. I want to leave a mark.

I had a hard time reading this book and have oddly super procrastinated writing this review.  I sat down to write it this morning and shuddered at the fact that I had made my notes while reading Fault in Our Stars on March 18th.  This book was exceptionally written and I poured through the pages in no time at all.  I felt countless emotions while reading it: humor, sadness, anger, devastation.  John Green has depicted life and death and love so honestly that his words resonated with me and you felt like you were living through the characters.  You empathized with them, you laughed with them, and you mourned with them.

But I had a hard time reading this book because of my own grief I am currently living with following the tragically sudden death of my fiancé in October 2011.  Hazel, Augustus, Isaac, the parents… all were living and breathing life and death so realistically that it hit incredibly close to home.  Hazel’s story put into words the wretched nature of grief that so many of us live with and so many aspects of the story felt like they were my own story.

The pain was always there, pulling me inside of myself, demanding to be felt. It always felt like I was waking up from the pain when something in the world outside of me suddenly required my comment or attention.

At times I felt like John Green was writing my story, writing this directly to me, and describing my grief in a way only I could understand.  That is the powerfulness of his words.  But I guarantee there are thousands of other people who felt the same thing as they read it.  The beauty of this book is that you can take it personally, see yourself within the pages, and completely understand the depths of what Hazel’s story is.  So many times I thought….. this is me!

The waves tossing me against the rocks then pulling me back out to sea so they could launch me again into the jagged face of the cliffs, leaving me floating face-up on the water, undrowned.

As Hazel describes her journey with her illness and her impressions on the futility of life, you find yourself drawn in and you almost cannot comprehend how this young girl is so wise.  Her illness, her brushes with death, and her losses have made her wise beyond her years in a way that only pain can.  Any one of us who has experienced tragic loss or lived with a disease, either personally or through a family member, understands how dramatically pain changes you.  John Green captures all of these emotions with ease and I think anyone who reads this would find it completely relatable to their lives.

What a slut time is. She screws everyone.

Even the concept of time was described in such a simple way and yet anyone who has experienced loss will understand it completely.  There is never enough time.  There are never enough tomorrow’s.  When you have lost someone you understand the obsessive desire for just one more tomorrow.  John Green captures this through his compelling words and you can’t help but be reminded how fleeting time is.  I think that was the best part of this book for me  — not how beautifully it was written, not how honest he describes the reality of life, not how intriguing the characters were, but how he tells life how it is in a no bullshit kind of way.  There is no sugar coating loss, death, suffering, and struggle.  Green is able to write this amazing story with complete honesty and makes no excuses for the reality of pain and one’s desperate need to cling onto time.

And then there is the love.  While the main focus of this book is about understanding death, tragedy, and genuine courage, there is love.  A sweet, romantic, teenage love story that can be seen as beautiful by a reader of any age.  This is no sappy childish love story.  This is one inundated with the harsh reality of their suffering and their unity over understanding the lurking sense of death.  This especially resonated with me and I understand Hazel’s anguish of loss and her unfailing love even after a harsh separation.

I want to close by saying that I fully recommend this book to absolutely everyone, but prepare yourself to be changed, to feel sorrow, and to come away from it with a new appreciation of time, life, and love.  I close with five final quotes that I cannot help but share.  I dedicate these beautiful words to my love, my sweet Zach whom I will forever love and will always wish for one more tomorrow.

I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things.

It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you

I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouln’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.

The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.

I missed the future. I felt robbed.

From Lauren’s Perspective:

“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” ~~ John Green in A Fault in Our Stars

It isn’t everyday you read a book that takes hold of you and grabs your attention and your passion and even steals a bit of your life away.  It isn’t everyday that you are desperately happy not to fully enter the life of the characters you are reading.  To feel such pain for them and hurt for them because of what they are suffering, to empathize with them and to relate to them, but to really not want to be them.  Or to only want to be a part of them.  It is not every day you get to feel that much for a character in a book at all.  But the days I got to spend reading The Fault in Our Stars, I experienced all of that and more.  This book is beautiful.  This book is probably as close to perfect as they come.  And while technically it is supposed to have been written for a younger audience, it is beautiful and intelligent and self-realizing in a way few adult books today are.  It teaches.  It shows you life from a point of view that most of us aren’t familiar with, that most of us thank whoever it is we believe in that we aren’t familiar with it.  But it shows real life.  True and real living.  I beg everyone who reads this post to read this book.  It’s one of the good ones.

“That’s the thing about pain…it demands to be felt.”

To give a brief synopsis of this novel, I won’t say much.  I don’t want to spoil anything, and the plot is better left uncovered as you read.  Simply, I will say, it is about a girl who is ill and her journey through life and love.  It is about true love.  It is about pain.  It is about death and all that means to all people.  In a rather poignant statement, Green writes through his main character Hazel, “There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”  It is in that statement that I can best describe this book.

“I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”

To start, I will state clearly, the characters were charming.  Hazel Grace, the narrator is a rather precocious 16 year old girl.  She is incredibly intelligent, well read, and has accepted her rather hazy fate, if in a slightly anti-social and depressive way.  She is dealing with life’s problems the best she can, and her strength comes through on every page.  It is her strength that drew me in.  Her love of reading drives the novels plot forward, she says, “Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”  Through this love she discusses her favourite book, the one she reads over and over and over again for how it relates to her, how it makes her feel.  Books, beside her budding love life, are the only place she finds any solace.  She is a solitary person and her books give her comfort.  The character of Augustus is also written perfectly.  He is weird and strange in all the right ways.  He is intelligent and happy and exactly the opposite of what you would expect an eighteen year old boy to be.  Both he and Hazel have intense world views, and quite astute beliefs about death and what that means for everyone around them.  They have, afterall, had a lot of time to think about it.  Put the two together, and you have star crossed lovers, reminiscent of a Shakespearean tale.  It is breathtaking.  Even the books secondary characters, Hazel’s parents, Isaac, and the drunken Van Houten are delightful in their own way.  But once again, I want you to discover them for yourselves.

“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.”

Finally, I will discuss the writing within the pages.  I want to tell you how well I thought they were written.  How amazing a wordsmith the author is.  But I have shown you what I think already, by smattering this review with quotes from the story.  Even those were a snippet of the beauty held within, I had a million more I wanted to add in somehow, but couldn’t for fear of giving away the story.  The writing is brilliant.  It is simple, easy enough for a young adult to understand, but poignant and thoughtful enough for anyone to read and take away beautiful realizations about their own lives.  It is the kind of writing that I long for in a book.  Simple.  Beautiful.  Filled with meaning.

It has been some time since a book has touched me in a way this book did.  Please take the time to read it.  It will be well worth your time.  And hopefully you will learn something about true love, pain, and the unfortunate side effects of death.

Rating

Plot – 4/5
Writing/Style/Form – 5/5
Characters – 5/5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value – 5/5

Overall Score – 19/20

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