Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

I'm trying to get a collection of books together for the students who will be going to Burkina Faso on the Reading West Africa study abroad program... in particular books about the power of books, or the nature of reading itself, just so even in their leisure reading the students are thinking about the importance of libraries and especially the transformative power of fiction. So in that vein I read The Book Thief. I can't recall who suggested it to me. I'm not sure the writing is Coetzee-quality (but then what is?) but the story definitely makes this a perfect leisure reading book. Grim, but not so grim as The Road. Nor, for that matter, as grim as Uwem Akpan's short story, Fattening for Gabon, which the more I think about it is truly a brilliant piece of ethnographic fiction... the character of Fofo, the uncle, is so sharply drawn it almost brings tears just to think about him.

Anyway, I strongly recommend The Book Thief for adults and readers above age 12 who are able to appreciate very strong images of death and suffering; the book is about the grim life of a young girl growing up in a small town in Germany during WWII... lots of death all around. Indeed, the narrator is Death, a clever device.


Nina said...

I picked up a copy from a local bookshop here in Accra, well before I realised how "popular"/well reviewed it was. It isn't a particularly easy read, but I did like it.

Michael Kevane said...

How on earth is it possible that there is a copy of The Book Thief in Accra ;-)
Reminds me of the famous Abbie Hoffman book, Steal This Book.
Yes, a difficult read. But I saw lots of parallels to growing up in a typical rural village in places like Burkina or northern Ghana... the everydayness of death, for children, the hunger, the caring and kindness, etc.

Teresa said...

For the Reading West Africa students you also might suggest The Book That Changed My Life (71 writers celebrate books that matter most to them), Reading Lolita in Tehran and Balzac & the Little Chinese Seamstress.