Good morning, everyone! It’s time for us to delve into some awesome discussion about December’s BTHR Book Club selection: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This discussion will have three parts. First up, I’ll share a series of book discussion questions that are you are welcome to answer in the comments. Secondly, I’ll share my review of the book. And thirdly, toward the end of the post you’ll find a link-up party to share your review post on your own blog (if you wrote one) so other members of the book club can check out what you had to say! And at the end of this post, you’ll find the announcement for January’s book club selection! Yay!
A warning: If you haven’t read the book, this post (and the comments) will be chock full of spoilers. So just skip on over this post!
These questions come originally from the Gailsburg Public Library, but I edited them a bit to fit our discussion (and questions I have).
- Did you like the book? Why or why not?
- Which of the characters did you like the most? Which did you dislike?
- What is the symbolism of Death as the omniscient narrator of the novel? Did you find Death as the narrator effective? Why or why not?
- Liesel has complex relationships with her foster parents, Hans and Rosa. In what ways do they show how they feel about her and about each other?
- How does Max’s life give Liesel purpose? At what point do Liesel and Max become friends?
- Liesel and the mayor’s wife have a complicated relationship. Eventually, the mayor’s wife leaves her a plate of cookies, and Liesel later returns the plate to the doorstep. Afterwards, “her brother never climbed into her sleep again.” (p 472). Why?
- Liesel lives to be an old woman. On the last page of the book (p. 550), Death says that he would like to tell the book thief “about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know?” How does her life represent beauty in the wake of brutality?
- Has anyone had an experiences that relate to places or experiences in the book?
Make sure to ask any questions you have in the comments. Happy discussing!
To be totally honest, I really struggled to get through this book. It wasn’t that I disliked the plot or the writing (both were amazing) but I’m just not sure this was the “right” book for me to read during such a busy time like December. I had to actually schedule time into my to-do list to read the book, instead of just wanting to read it whenever I had a drop of freetime. If I didn’t have the deadline of the book club, I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to finishing it until January.
Part of that I think is because I feel like the first half of the book moves at an excruciatingly slow pace. I realized that stuff was about to go down, just from the historical timeline, but still, it felt like the plot was moving at the speed of molasses. Thankfully, that sped up quite a bit in the second half. I was totally hooked in by the time Max Vandenburg came to stay with them. I’ve been fascinated for a long time with the stories of non-Jews who went out on a limb to hide Jews in Nazi Germany (so much compassion and selflessness), that I immediately got drawn in thanks to Max’s story and his friendship with Liesel and the rest of the family.
If nothing else, Zusak’s writing style was very unique. I went back and forth between thinking, “This is the most amazing writing I’ve ever read” to “Okay, this is annoying.” I particularly struggled with the death as the narrator aspect. It was very distracting to me. It would seem like we would go pages and page (chapters even) with it not being mentioned, and then suddenly, the fact that the narrator was death was important to the story. It always took me a few sentences to remember, “Oh yeah, this is death talking.” For the historical time period, it feels totally appropriate (and for the story, much more appropriate in the second half of the book), but at first, it was a difficult concept for me to grasp.
I felt like Zusak’s descriptions of feelings and events were so intriguing, different and completely accurate. So often I think authors get stuck using a handful of phrases to describe a character’s feelings and emotions, but Zusak did such a great job creating colorful phrases to really get at the heart of the moment. It’s the type of writing that made it so blatantly obvious that he is an insanely naturally talented writer. The plot itself (and the writing to describe the plot) really showed the power of words.
Of course, we all knew the ending was going to end badly, didn’t we? It wasn’t a matter of if they were going to die, just a matter of who and how. Even though Death has foreshadowed Rudy’s death for chapters and chapters beforehand, I was still totally crushed when Liesel realized he was dead and he’s never get his kiss (well, living).
Overall, I really wanted to love this book, and I could appreciate the beauty of the prose, the characters and the story, but it just never grabbed me the way some books have in the past. Maybe it was a case of the right book at the wrong time, and I’ll reread it again at another time in my life and be swept away the way a lot of folks have been.
January 2013 Book Announcement
Last month we voted for the book for December, but I’m breaking away from that a bit for January because we have a unique opportunity to chat and interact with a brand new author of a book that is skyrocketing in popularity. The January 2013 BTHR Book Club Selection is….
Follow Terra Rhodon through a dystopian future where the planet’s natural resources have been depleted and the rich and powerful have fled to cities in the sky. Eighteen-year-old Terra makes her living as a scav, collecting valuable recyclables to turn in for profit. Terra’s life is changed forever when a routine scavenging leads her to a discovery that turns her world upside down. From there, she finds herself being rapidly introduced to a world she never knew, as well as to Adam, a boy unlike anyone she has ever met. But Adam has secrets, and with him, Terra embarks on a journey that will lead to an earth-shattering revelation – one that will test the bonds of friendship, family, and love.
The first book in debut author Gretchen Powell’s anticipated Terrestrials series, Terra is action-packed, full of intrigue, and sure to leave you waiting breathlessly for the sequel.