1. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    WF Book Club Selection for November/December

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by thirdwind, Nov 2, 2011.

    For the next two months we'll be reading and discussing The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I hope that a lot more of you can join us this time. I've heard good things about the book.
     
  2. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I won't be joining you for the reading I'm afraid as I've already read the book within the last year. When we get towards a discussion I may well chip in however, particularly as I wasn't very taken with it. Happy reading.
     
  3. urban_rae
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    urban_rae Senior Member

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    I'm in. Just ordered my copy...
     
  4. urban_rae
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    urban_rae Senior Member

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    I am going to start reading now... will post comments soon.
     
  5. Prophetsnake
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    Prophetsnake Contributing Member

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    I'm in as well. I have a copy ordered. it'll be thursday before I can start..
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I started reading last night, so I'll have something to contribute by the weekend. I can say, however, that the point of view employed in this book is very unique. I'm interested in seeing what Zusak does with it.
     
  7. urban_rae
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    urban_rae Senior Member

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    Review - Part I

    Zusak’s style is very unique, he certainly has a clear point of view. I did find it slow going at first, as I was confused by the scenario and had to go back and reread certain portions. I also had a hard time with the bold and centered insights, but once I got used to them I found them rather amusing.

    Zusak has an amazing talent for personifying emotions. For example, in the following passage, instead of telling us how heavy the loss of a child is, he shows us,

    “Liesel was sure her mother carried the memory of him, slung over her shoulder. She dropped him. She saw his feet and legs and body slap the platform.”

    The imagery created is so powerful. There is so much emotion wrapped in this technique. He does this throughout the story. To me, it is beautiful.

    I do like how we see the story through the eyes of the grim reaper, or death. It’s not wholly original, but a neat concept and well written. I like the strange role that colors play, it brings an interesting dimension to the story – I wonder what you think about this, prophetsnake, as it is very reminiscent of something I read in your story.

    I also like seeing the book thief’s story through the grim reaper. It is an interesting perspective, there is some intrigue created this way, and I wonder if maybe some misdirection as well. Initially, it felt too distant and it was slow reading, but as the story moved forward he moved closer to Leisel’s point of view. It feels (and reads) like Leisel’s story now, which is better, I’m in the groove and picking up the pace.

    The subject matter is not something I would pick up and read on my own, I tend to loose interest after a while. But so far it’s well written, I feel a connection to the MC and want to learn her story.
     
  8. Penjerman
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    Penjerman New Member

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    This seems like a good discussion group. I just got the book and am starting this afternoon.
     
  9. Prophetsnake
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    Prophetsnake Contributing Member

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    Penjerman and Thirdwind.
    Great! I thought myself and Rae would end up just talking about this between the two of us. Welcome.

    I started and so far so good. I find the book to be full of hope, for me in particular. Hope, because any book that not only manages to get published, but becomes a best seller and receives acclaim when it contains phrases like "rarely frequented" gives me hope that I may also be in the running for getting published! I'm only up to page 25 and there are a lot of very strange phrases that would certainly be called bad writing elsewhere.

    Having said all that, I like it. Many of the dodgey items could be put down to a reliance on prose to set the tone. You can understand what he means, but it can take a couple of passes to 'get it'. For example:

    I entered the train,
    no one noticed
    The train galloped on
    Except the girl.

    line three and four are logically inverted, they did not leave the girl behind.


    Either death is a poet and don't know it, or the author has had his language skills tainted by reading too many ads on eBay, or he is employing a device that my old english teacher would have sent him to Siberia for.


    Anyhow, you get the idea, but this doesn't really detract from the story for me. I'm not put off by someone taking a chance with convention. I'll read on.
     
  10. urban_rae
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    urban_rae Senior Member

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    So glad to have others participating, hi thirdwind and penjerman.

    LOL! Yeah, there are a lot of little gems like that. The language smoothes out as you read on however. But I think death dose fancy himself as a poet. And does he have a little crush on the book thief?
     
  11. Prophetsnake
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    Prophetsnake Contributing Member

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    OK so, I'll push on with it then. It won;t be the first book I was glad I persevered with.
     
  12. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It's great to have more people participate this time around.

    The first thing I noticed about the book was how Zusak uses color to describe just about everything. Color is important in that it's not just something that can be seen, but it's also something that can be felt, heard, tasted, or smelt. One drawback of this is that some passages tend to be overly descriptive. As of now, that's my main criticism of this book. Some passages tend to stray away from the action and go on tangents, only to return to the action several paragraphs later. But all in all I like Zusak's pacing of the book.

    I find the point of view particularly interesting because the narrator (death) seems very sympathetic toward particular characters, whereas one would imagine death was being very impartial.
     
  13. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is one of the reasons I didn't like the book, especially when this sympathy becomes downright flippancy.
     
  14. urban_rae
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    urban_rae Senior Member

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    Okay Zusak, I'm pushing forward, but you're losing interest fast. Soon they will be dropping like flies...
     
  15. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Now that I've gotten halfway through the book, I can say that while I enjoy some of the metaphors and imagery he uses, I find this book a bit lacking in some places. I've already mentioned the bias of the narrator (death). I also can't help but compare this to the some of the other novels set during this time period. In that aspect, The Book Thief is nothing special because it doesn't add anything or do anything different than some of the other books I've read.

    I also don't like how Zusak handles a lot of his characters, but I think he did a good job on Leisel and Max. One reason for this is that we are shown character traits of Leisel and Max through their actions, whereas some of the other characters we're merely given short descriptions here and there.

    I'm hoping that Zusak has a good ending in place to make up for some of his other shortcomings.

    A few questions also popped up in my mind as I was reading. First, what if the book's central character was Max rather than Leisel? Would that change the bias of the narrator a little bit (I ask because I imagine Zusak's narrator, death, to be more partial towards younger characters)? And would another point of view have worked better in telling this particular story?
     
  16. urban_rae
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    urban_rae Senior Member

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    I agree with thirdwind, that this book is lacking a bit. I've been thinking about what it is that is not working for me because, if not for this book club, I would have given up reading already. Part of it is that Zusak continues to keep some distance in his pov perspective. I get that he is telling the story through death, but I'm missing a connection to the characters because of this. I like Leisel and Papa, but do I care about them enough to keep reading... not really.

    I don't think that Zusak's writing style is bad, on the contrary, he does do a lot of things really well. Like I have pointed out before, he has a way of personifying emotions and abstract ideas that is so beautiful.

    I almost feel like the story is too character driven. I'm not sure if there is enough intrigue, Zusak drops hints along the way as to what is going to happen in Leisel's journey, but I find myself a little bored. So she's going to steel another book, who cares?

    I'm still hanging in there though... waiting for the payoff....
     
  17. urban_rae
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    urban_rae Senior Member

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    I finally got to Max. He really ads another dimension to the story. In a way, I feel like Zusak tells a better story through Max. It's a little more engaging. i feel like he knows Max better than Leisel.

    thirdwind has raised some very good questions... I do think the story would have worked better in a different pov.

    But thank goodness for the introduction of Max, he has given me renewed interest in this story.
     
  18. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    At this point, I find Max to be the most interesting of all the characters, and I would have loved to see the story focus on him rather than Leisel. Answering my own question from before, I believe that by following Max's storyline, the narrator could have been less partial (partiality is actually one of my biggest issues with this book). I actually think this partiality and the age of Leisel have a lot to do with the fact that the book is marketed toward younger audiences.

    One thing I really like about Zusak's writing is his imagination with imagery, where sounds can be felt, smells can be heard, etc. I also appreciate Zusak's effort in trying to tell us about life outside concentration camps, which is the focus of a lot of famous books about that time period (i.e. Night by Elie Weisel and Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi).
     
  19. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I finally finished the book a few days ago. Overall I thought it was a good read, though I have a few problems with how it was written (I've already mentioned these problems in my older posts). Zusak is still a relatively young writer, so I think he'll have a few other good works later on in his career.
     

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