Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Rating: 5/5

Where do I even begin? When reading this novel, I went through all the emotions; laughing, crying, bitterness and anger. It was a weighty novel but I begged for more when I flipped over the last page. I will not spoil the ending, but tears would not stop streaming down my face! I was transfixed to Liesel’s character and related to her rebellious tendencies and infant perplexities that I had as a child. This immediate love for the child only made it harder when she faced death, pain and separation; her heavy emotions are passed onto the reader, however, it heightened the content and innocent moments too.

The author’s choice of narrator is thought-provoking. I have never read a book from death’s perspective; it enhanced the sorrowful atmosphere of world war two and revealed facts and opinions you never thought of. The notes from the narrator in bold forebodes events later on in the story and this small structural addition makes the reader never want to put the book down. His messages are blatant on what will happen in the future, but, fails to present any sort of detail about how, who, when, what. Very infuriating! The narrator also (thankfully) helps the reader to pronounce or translate the German words! So, don’t worry about that.

If you’re like me and melt at the love of family and friends, then this is defiantly the book for you. Liesel’s passionate admiration for Max (a Jew, based at the bottom of the Hubermann’s basement) was eye-opening and without their friendship, the story would not be the same. She was his only friend and she helped him through suffering and resentment; making his last look at the sky positive, rather than bitter. The family love between Hans, Rosa and Liesel was another relationship to live vicariously through, although they did have a strange way of showing they liked each other. Rosa would call her husband and daughter rude names, like “Saumensch,” but it truly meant she loved them (as stated by death at the end). The father, Hans, was the selfless man every reader loves. He was strong for his family and Max but also demonstrated his true strength in his objection to be loyal to Hitler, when everyone else found it easier to follow. He was the stories hero. Not to mention his kindness and positivity towards his daughter was heart-warming. Finally, the mischievous couple of Rudy and Liesel. Their youthful friendship made me smile and I wanted to be eleven again. This was my favourite pair of all, as they stood by each other through thick and thin, hiding their true love that was sadly never said but shown in Liesel’s tears.

One last point. The chapter headings are gravitating and by that I mean, the ambiguity of them makes a reader never want to stop looking through the story. However, when I did admit defeat and have to put the book down, it made me very excited for when I next sit down with it, to reveal what was happening next from glancing at the upcoming titles. My love-hate relationship with ‘Death’s’ chapters were insightful but mainly agitated me as I watched Himmel Street decay and I knew it was coming from chapter one.


June’s Novel Picks

Hello! For June I have two books that I have had my eye on for a while. These books are completely different in every aspect, however, show the brutality of discrimination in social class and gender. (Perfect for a novel comparison essay!). They are…

Ignore the scruffy nail polish!

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

– summary by Goodreads

“My satire is against those who see figures and averages, and nothing else,” proclaimed Charles Dickens in explaining the theme of this classic novel. Published in 1854, the story concerns one Thomas Gradgrind, a “fanatic of the demonstrable fact,” who raises his children, Tom and Louisa, in a stifling and arid atmosphere of grim practicality.

Without a moral compass to guide them, the children sink into lives of desperation and despair, played out against the grim background of Coketown, a wretched community shadowed by an industrial behemoth. Louisa falls into a loveless marriage with Josiah Bouderby, a vulgar banker, while the unscrupulous Tom, totally lacking in principle, becomes a thief who frames an innocent man for his crime. Witnessing the degradation and downfall of his children, Gradgrind realizes that his own misguided principles have ruined their lives.

Considered Dickens’ harshest indictment of mid-19th-century industrial practices and their dehumanizing effects, this novel offers a fascinating tapestry of Victorian life, filled with the richness of detail, brilliant characterization, and passionate social concern that typify the novelist’s finest creations.

Of Dickens’ work, the eminent Victorian critic John Ruskin had this to say: “He is entirely right in his main drift and purpose in every book he has written; and all of them, but especially Hard Times, should be studied with close and earnest care by persons interested in social questions.”

A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks

– Summary by Goodreads

A powerful contemporary novel set in London from a master of literary fiction.

London, the week before Christmas, 2007. Over seven days we follow the lives of seven major characters: a hedge fund manager trying to bring off the biggest trade of his career; a professional footballer recently arrived from Poland; a young lawyer with little work and too much time to speculate; a student who has been led astray by Islamist theory; a hack book-reviewer; a schoolboy hooked on skunk and reality TV; and a Tube train driver whose Circle Line train joins these and countless other lives together in a daily loop.

With daring skill, the novel pieces together the complex patterns and crossings of modern urban life. Greed, the dehumanising effects of the electronic age and the fragmentation of society are some of the themes dealt with in this savagely humorous book. The writing on the wall appears in letters ten feet high, but the characters refuse to see it — and party on as though tomorrow is a dream.

Sebastian Faulks probes not only the self-deceptions of this intensely realised group of people, but their hopes and loves as well. As the novel moves to its gripping climax, they are forced, one by one, to confront the true nature of the world they inhabit

Book Review: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Title: Little Women

Author: Louisa May Alcott

Publisher: Roberts Brothers

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis

Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.

Background

It is no secret that Alcott based Little Women on her own early life. While her father, the freethinking reformer and abolitionist Bronson Alcott, hobnobbed with such eminent male authors as Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne, Louisa supported herself and her sisters with “woman’s work,” including sewing, doing laundry, and acting as a domestic servant. But she soon discovered she could make more money writing. Little Women brought her lasting fame and fortune, and far from being the “girl’s book” her publisher requested, it explores such timeless themes as love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America.


Review:

This is the perfect winter/rainy day book! I loved curling up on my chair, under a massive blanket and a hot drink next to me, reading this cosy book. I was immediately in love with the selfless characters and their admiration for each hobby they possessed (as a writer, my favourite character was obviously Jo). It wasn’t thrilling or climatic but the slow, realistic story, made it gratifying and inspiring. I don’t normally like books that don’t have an exciting incident, which made me reluctant to read this but it didn’t disappoint!

Of course, this is a classic! And, most people have read this novel or watched the numerous movies based on it, so, I won’t bore you on another review but it’s a great evening, wind-down book (if you’re like me and a bit late on reading the classic novels or maybe this is encouraging you to dig it out again!). I will definitely be picking it up later to reread it.

(Probably shouldn’t say this on a book review but the new movie was motivational and I loved every second! It made me work and start writing again the next day! I recommend that too, shhh)


If you’re interested in buying the book ‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott, you can purchase it here!



Book Review: Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Title: Noughts & Crosses

Author: Malorie Blackman

Publisher: Random House

Rating: 5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Sephy is a Cross — a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought — a “colourless” member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood, but that’s as far as it can go. In their world, Noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum — a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger. Can they possibly find a way to be together?


Review:

I finished this book in two days! I remember picking it up as a child and never really understanding the storyline but always interested in everyone’s awe about it. So, when I had bundles of time to read I picked it up off my dusty shelf and sat in my reading corner. I started reading at about seven-thirty in the morning and was interrupted when it was time for lunch, I was shocked to see time whizz by when you can’t get your nose out of a good book. The next morning I was back on it!

This novel of a split population creates a variety of emotions, from anger to sorrow. From two point of views with different races, helps a reader to sympathise and interpret their version of life in a racist dystopian. I found it fascinating to realise that neither superior or inferior experiences happiness, although crosses do have more benefits. The representation was so agonising, it made me ache for the main characters. From the uniqueness of their friendship, you long for it to go further than that. Sephy and Callum’s fight against everyone’s opinions of what noughts and crosses rights and regulations are, was an intense anxiety for me, making me flick through pages with haste. You learn to love the characters and live vicariously through the circumstances they are brought up in.

This novel is fascinating, indulging and addictive! I would definitely recommend reading it. And, after I flicked over that last page, I sat with my head in my hands to take everything in that had happened (you’ll understand if you read it), hoping there would be more to the story! The title of ‘Noughts & Crosses’ being a game, shows that once you’ve grasped its objectives and tactics, it always ends in a draw – a no win situation. Which I think represents racism, no one actually wins.

Malorie Blackman showed us the brutalisation of racism and blatantly shows us, we would never wish a life of muting a group. Initially I wasn’t happy with the ending and wanted to rate it low stars but once I gathered my scattered thoughts, I realised the ending was the most significant part of Blackman’s lesson – the effect of discrimination and that no one was winning in a separated society.


If you’re interested in buying the book ‘Noughts & Crosses’ by Malorie Blackman, you can click the link here!