East Bay Book Club Message Board › Meeting Recap: July 2012 Contemporary Book Discussion (The Book Thief by Mar

Meeting Recap: July 2012 Contemporary Book Discussion (The Book Thief by Markus Zusak)

Group Organizer
Union City, CA
Post #: 21
The first thing that is striking about The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is something that was mentioned during Ann Litwack's presentation on the author and book: The book is intended to be adult fiction, yet it was marketed as a young adult novel in the United States. Many of us (23 attendees in all) agreed that it's not the kind of book that would be for young adults, given the dark nature of this World War II story.

Deb D. then led the discussion with a couple of interesting questions. Here's a sample of the questions and the responses.

What do you think of Death as a narrator?

Overall, it seems that Death develops compassion over the course of The Book Thief. His duty may involve picking up souls after people die (by each other's hands, not Death's), but he isn't entirely heartless. If anything, he seems to be touched by the protagonist Liesel.

During this discussion, the topic of foreshadowing came up. Each chapter has snippets of what is to come in the chapter, which makes sense since Death can see the future. One person said that this foreshadowing technique lets the reader be alongside Death, essentially being close to the character. What's amazing is that there are still surprises when the events predicted finally happen, because certain details aren't yet mentioned.

What is the significance of the books that Liesel steals, such as the Gravedigger's Handbook?

Here's an interesting response from Marianne: books connect Liesel to both her biological family and her foster family, because one book reminds her of her brother and her foster father reads with her. Books also help Liesel connect with Max, the man in the basement.

Also, there are two graphic novels within the book that were quite memorable. One was a story written over the pages of Mein Kampf. The other is a story about a big tree growing taller than a whole forest of swastika trees. Both are done very well.

Thoughts on Rudy?

Rudy is like a brother to Liesel. He's also brave because he's willing to put on blackface and run around like Jesse Owens, an action that would no doubt be a slap in the face to Hitler. More importantly, Rudy supports Liesel and even provides a counterpoint in some moments.

Final thoughts

Aside from a few criticisms of the book, every single person praised it. Reasons for loving the book: bird's eye view of various characters, the unique writing style, the character and perspective of Death, a fast read, good character development, and mixing disaster with humor. I ended the meeting by announcing that this turnout of 23 attendees is the best I've ever seen in the East Bay Book Club.

Overall, I'm very happy about the meeting, and I look forward to more great book discussions. :-)
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