It seems almost a shame to be writing this entry now as, alas, I have missed my opportunity to speak to its’ recommender, as she’s departed for a far-away university. Nevertheless, despite it’s deviation from method and form, this is an important blog for me to write as it was the first Favourite Book I bought, and in many ways launched the project.
The Book Thief was something I’d heard of and when Jess then recommended it without any hesitation before suddenly turning slightly sheepish to mumble a caveat that “it’s a bit of a weird book to be a favourite” I knew I was onto a winner. It’s set in Nazi Germany and it’s narrated by death. It’s emotional, powerful and beautifully written. It now makes my list as one of my favourite books.
I kept it a while, if I’m honest, after I bought it. You’ll notice a theme throughout these pages of books I never would have read by myself but The Book Thief bucks that trend: it’s very much something I would pick off the self and choose to read. For that reason, it sat a while at the bottom of my pile of Favourite Books as a reward for starting those I was less inclined to push on with. When I finally reached it, it did not disappoint.
For a hefty book, it’s a quick read. I think that’s down to a combination of the really outstanding little narrative break-ups in the text (I don’t quite know how to explain these, but find Markus Zusak next time you’re in a book shop and flick through the book yourself, you’ll see what I mean) and the fact that the book is an absolute page-turner. It slows down a little coming into the final quarter but it’s a necessary gear change for the lasting impression of the ending.
I wish I’d had the chance to have a discussion with Jess about this book, because once again it’s a dark, powerful novel about death and suffering recommended by someone with a contagious laugh and a smile that makes you happy, and I’m becoming absolutely facinated by what makes people so attracted to a book that is so far distanced from the impression I have of them. Does The Book Thief show Jess’ rosy, good-natured effervescence to be a facade? Or does it provide an outlet that enables the continued success of her vivacious character? When Megan recommends In Cold Blood or Charlie recommends Birdsong – are we seeing a darker side of them or just an engagment in the darker side of human nature specifically to distance themselves further from it? Or maybe it’s just that all of the greatest books are about really nasty stuff.
Anyway, enough lamentation on missed opportunities – it’s an exquisite book and Jess, if you’re reading, thanks for sending it my way. Just between you and I, it’s been my favourite Favourite Book so far.