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The Book Thief
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Margaret | 173 comments Buddy read with MichelleCH.

message 2: by MichelleCH (last edited Oct 22, 2012 04:41PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

MichelleCH (lalatina) Yeah!!! Another buddy- read!

So Death is actually quite likeable. He has a dirty job but I feel like he is sympathetic and is slowly shaking his head at all the humans down on earth. We make his job easier than it should be.

I like Liesel and have been struck by how much innocence is lost at such an early age. The first book she steals on grave digging is so sad, morbid even, but a comfort at the same time. It is a memento of her brother, regardless of the content.

I haven't connected to the narrative around colors so much yet; have you?

I can say that I am scared as to where we are going.

Margaret | 173 comments Okay first of all, I have to confess something. I read NO reviews and heard nothing about this book from anyone before hand. The title simply grabbed my interest, I read the back cover and promptly bought it. Now, with my excuses out of the way, here is my confession...

When the book opened and the narrator said "I am death" I thought he was using a metaphor. I was so confused when he took her brother and the way it was described, he looked like he was caught in the act but Liesel gave no indication of seeing anyone kill her brother. Haha! Don't worry, I caught on soon, after the grave digging scene and then I was all like, Oh! He really is Death! I hope my confession made you at least smile. :)

Colors? Well, so far I'm "thinking" red to represent a massacre and black to represent smoke, from burning...the other colors I guess are open to interpretation? I'm open to discuss any passages you want to share though in reference to the colors though. Maybe we can figure them out together?

I'm with Liesel on that one book she rescued from the bonfire. Man, if it was me and I had to witness it I would have been crying the whole time! I probably would have snatched all three of those surviving books and risked just as much burn to my skin as she had. I have to say, I'm finding her very relatable where the books are concerned.

That last remark you made...I know exactly what you mean. I keep mentally preparing myself for disaster and I'm sure that quite a few characters I care about will bite it before the story ends. After all, this is Nazi Germany!

I also want to say that this book has done an exemplary job capturing the overall feel of the Nazi rule. Remember the panic when Liesel's foster parents couldn't find their flag, for crying out loud?? Can you just imagine how terrifying it must have been for anyone whose mind was strong enough to see what was really happening? I swear, those few who dared to hide even ONE Jew in Nazi Germany all deserve medals of bravery.

MichelleCH (lalatina) A great confession! I like your explanations of black and red... I need to look back at when white is mentioned- perhaps loneliness or despair. I will note the next time it is mentioned so we can both look at it.

I know, the book burning was very disturbing. I wonder who saw her take the book. She said someone saw; I have bad feelings about it.

I am hoping her foster father is ok, but am so worried. Especially with his radical son. Imagine a son so cruel?. As an aside I chuckled at the idea that people must of been injured from the Heil Hitler salute. Imagine the flying arms.

The day to day terror is intense. The last line on page 128 sums it up well
"and oh, how we come"

Chris There is a play version in Chicago.

Margaret | 173 comments Yeah, Papa's son is a real piece of work but I'm trying to keep my hatred in check because this is dealing with an entire country that got swept up in a propaganda of hatred towards one race. I'm no expert on Nazi Germany by any stretch of the imagination (although Patton is my favorite general in history) but I have watched a documentary or two from Germany's point of view in that war. I also took German for two years in high school and I still remember how our teacher explained a part of what it was about Hitler that got the people of Germany so behind a man who preached so much hatred. Basically, Germany's economy was shot after WWI and Hitler rose to power with ideas on how to better their economy, like the highly affordable Volkswagon car as one example. He sort of appeared as a savior to them, a man with a rare gift; JFK had it - General Patton (<--love that man!) had it but so did Hitler; the ability to inspire the masses. It has often been said that when Patton gave a speech there wasn't a soldier in the room who wasn't hungry to run out and gun down the first Nazi he saw.

Then you have Hitler who brainwashed a whole country - a whole friggin country! - it still boggles my mind, how ONE person can convince an entire population that Jews should be removed from society and that the ideal German should have blond hair and blue eyes...said the man with dark hair and dark eyes AND had Jewish blood in him! Yet no one questioned that little factoid.

I've seen before how propaganda(AKA brainwashing) affects society, the way it can and will escalade and the more it escalades the harsher the masses' reaction will be to anyone who dares to show a hint of reason. It's absolutely phenomenal and no matter how often I see it I don't fully understand how or why it was allowed to happen but I do try.

One of the documentaries I watched on the Holocaust one German interviewed stated that when the Jews were first taken away, Germany thought that they were just being relocated; it didn't occur to anyone that they were put in camps, under daily torture or led to a field where they were ordered to dig their own graves before being shot down. I know that's no excuse; removing people based purely off their race is still wrong *As Hell* but it's just one example of how throwing one's belief in the wrong leader can escalade.

This book is making me curious now about Mein Kampf. If for no other reason than my curiosity of hearing (reading) Hitler explain himself in his own words. Thing is, if I ever got my hands on that book I don't know if I could keep it in my library afterwards. On one hand it would serve as a testament to history but on the other, all that hatred might make me feel like its presence is contaminating my library (which I nickname The Zen Room, LOL).

MichelleCH (lalatina) Chris wrote: "There is a play version in Chicago."

MichelleCH (lalatina) I agree Margaret, I see a lot of hatred being thrown about and interesting parallels in our current election cycle. Lots of propaganda. The ability to twist arguments can be used in so many ways.

There was a great movie that shows how beliefs can spin out of control. Its called, "The Wave". It was made in Germany; perhaps as an on-going reminder for them..I highly recommend it.

I am close to page 200. Where are you? Don't want to give anything away.

These have been some really nice weeks in fall. My husband and I have been cycling in the evening and I haven't had a lot of time for reading. I hope to make it up this weekend.

I am also watching Sandy since we are right in it's path!

Margaret | 173 comments Hurricane Sandy?? Please take care!

Don't worry, I'm a little past page 300...314 to be exact. When you get to the part where Death says something about Rudy's future let me know. I definitely want to talk about that.

"The Wave"? I think I actually watched that movie back when I was a kid...somewhere around 7th grade. Wasn't it about a high school group being formed - the leader (If I remember correctly the leader was a teacher at the school...but then again my very young perspective on older kids/adults could have been obscured) wrote their symbol on the chalkboard that looked like two squiggly lines, like water? I almost want to say that the leader was a teacher; he even gave the group a gesture that represented them. I remember thinking that while it wasn't the raised arm in salute like they used back when the Nazis "heiled Hitler" the raised hand (I *think* in the movie the arm was bent though, so it looked a little more like a wave) I thought their gesture looked eerily similar to the "heil Hitler". I don't remember a lot about the movie but unless I'm mistaken I think the group got bigger and then fights broke out in the school because kids in "The Wave" group were fighting in the name of it. Was there one student who kept trying to talk to the leader of the group, point out what was going wrong and he didn't see it at first until towards the end when things really got out of control? Then in the end the leader showed the kids who their true leader was and it was old footage of Hitler? That's literally all I remember about the movie. I never knew it was a German film! I thought it was one of those after school specials. Is this the same film? If so, that's literally all I remember about it. The two pieces that stick out most (and sort of "haunt" me to this day!) are the beginning when the "gesture" for their group was created and then at the end when the leader played the Hitler footage as proof of how far their group had escalated. If this is the movie you're talking about then you just made me want to find that thing on YouTube and watch it again, this time with adult eyes.

You know, there's something that never occurred to me before. Throughout most of the week while I was reading, I kept thinking, Just hold on, in four years this hatred will be destroyed...Just hold on, in three years, Hilter will die...

Then I realized something I probably should have considered way back when I first learned about WWII! Just because Hilter was defeated in 1945 does NOT mean that the world simply snapped their collective fingers on D-Day and all of that hatred and malice Germany had towards the Jews went away. When exactly would it have been safe for the Jews to come out of hiding in Germany? I need to look that up.

MichelleCH (lalatina) We went for a bike ride this morning, cloudy and little spits of rain along the water. Nothing worrisome yet. We have groceries and have cleaned our yard of anything that can be blown about. I so hope we don't get serious damage.

I caught up with you. Please do share your thoughts around Rudy.

MichelleCH (lalatina) Oh and yes, that is the same film! You have a very good memory.

I had that same thought about the time, especially for Max. I am so worried about him.

Margaret | 173 comments Okay, I do NOT appreciate Death spoiling Rudy's fate for us. Why did the author choose to do this, exactly? How did you feel when Death revealed Rudy would die in a bombing *and* that it would be the first and only time Liesel will kiss him?? Unless something truly profound happens later on in the story, this book has just lost one star for me where ratings are concerned.

MichelleCH (lalatina) Well Death is rather nasty and it is totally in his nature to be spoilerish. I do remember however him alluding to Rudy's demise at other times as well. This time it was pretty black and white though.

I love Max. I also wonder if he and Liesel will stay connected after the war; if they both survive that is...

What do you think about the Mayor's wife? Do you think she is waiting for Liesel to come back and take the books? I just don't trust her at all! Can you imagine living in such a small town during the war, I am shocked that her family has been able to keep Max hidden for so long.

With the storm, I have gotten some good reading in.

MichelleCH (lalatina) Margaret as to your comment about the ending of the war, I recommend Skeletons at the Feast. It's a great end of the war tale and describes how the last days must of played out on the ground by the survivors and perpetrators. It's an interesting crossover of guilty bystanders that watched and did nothing, the remaining Jewish survivors, the retreating German troops and the incoming Russians ( who were not always perfectly innocent either).

Margaret | 173 comments Honestly about the mayor's wife? I had the opposite impression of her. I still think she's a sad and pitiful creature but if he harbored any malice towards Liesel I think she would have done something when she told her off. As someone who also owns a room full of books, take it from me - you *know* just at a glance when one of your books are missing. I think maybe she sees a piece of herself in Liesel(even if it's just a shared love of books) and that's why she enjoyed her company even though they rarely even spoke.

Thanks for that book recommendation. I'll look that up! :)

MichelleCH (lalatina) You make some good points, especially about the roomful of books. I suppose I was judging her harshly because she is the Mayor's wife. We book lovers tend to stick together?

MichelleCH (lalatina) I marked page 391. Not sure if you are there yet?

The second to the last paragraph grabbed me, "They watched the Jews come down the road like a catalog of colors. That wasn't how the book thief described them, but I can tell you that that's exactly what they were, for many of them would die"

I have been thinking about these lines a lot and how Death sees the living. Each person is a color = agony, hunger, desperation, etc.

I also believe this is one of the most powerful parts of the book. Hans was a man that could not bear to sit by and watch, he is the one person with the courage and will to allow compassion to override the survival instinct. Yes, he has endangered Max, but I believe that he has shown Liesel the best of humanity.

Speaking of Max, when he was ill and Liesel brought him gifts, it made me cry. I loved her so much for that.

Margaret | 173 comments As of right now I'm at 408. Yes, if you ask me Hans is actually the bravest man in town. This is exactly what I'm talking about. I know we all would like to think we would have found some kind of way to help the Jews but how many of us truly would have? Knowing the steep punishment simply for sympathizing!

I'm with Liesel 100%. **PLEASE** let Max be okay!

MichelleCH (lalatina) You must be close to being finished, if not already done. What are your thoughts? I love this book!

message 20: by Esther (last edited Nov 03, 2012 12:21AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Esther (eshchory) MichelleCH wrote: "Well Death is rather nasty and it is totally in his nature to be spoilerish. I do remember however him alluding to Rudy's demise at other times as well. This time it was pretty black and white thou..."

In his deadpan way and with the black humour I actually found Death to be quite comforting. He seemed to tend so gently to the souls he was taking and actually to be distressed by the amount of work given him by the death camps that I felt a sort of sad comfort that these people, after meeting such a horrific end, would find caring and tenderness at the hands of Death.

Margaret | 173 comments Very well said, Esther, especially the last line. :)

The "spoilerish" thing did redeem itself for me at the end because the writer's use of voice delivered it in such a way that I truly felt that Death was telling a story that he found particularly heart wrenching and he simply couldn't hold back on Rudy's demise because it remained so heavy on his mind.

Yay! Max survived!!!

Oh and when the whole street was bombed, I sooo saw it coming with the mayor and his wife taking in Liesel. Did you? As a book collector, I can tell you honestly I always get a soft spot for the young readers - if for no other reason than I see a bit of my childhood self in them.

Would you be interested in doing the discussion questions at the end? If no it's no big deal, just thought it might be fun. Oh and Chris and Esther you're more than welcome to chime in too. :)

MichelleCH (lalatina) Double Yay!!!

Esther, I like your points.

I did not see the Mayor and his wife taking her in; good call.

I would be interested in the discussion questions. There is so much to think about. I would love others to jump in.

I think that Esther's points about Death's feelings about each victim answers the first question well.

Liesel is beautiful in her care for Max, her love for Hans and even Rosa, just as some brief examples. The ugly is the anger and nightmares which lead her to beat another child senseless. Humans are contrary beings and Death has to reconcile the good with the bad (outside of Hitler who was pure evil).

message 23: by Margaret (last edited Nov 07, 2012 12:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Margaret | 173 comments I'll do the ugly and the beautiful in Rosa and Mrs. Hermann (I cannot find any ugly in Max or Hans! Can you? That part's hard for me.)

Rosa is ugly in her brassy and angry ways, the way that I would imagine Rosa being an "acquired taste" and getting to know her in order to love, particularly when contrasted against gentle Hans. But once you do you see how much love and care she is capable of showing. For example when Max showed up I expected Rosa to have a fit - after all, Death did describe Hans' feelings about Nazis and Jews but did NOT describe where Rosa stood at all until Max. Her quick action in that crisis pleasantly surprised me; when she showed up at Liesel's school screaming at her over a hairbrush and then leaning down to tell her about Max not just endeared her to me but also made me laugh. Then of course, towards the end when she cradled Hans' accordian, but I won't get into that last part too much because through Death's and Liesel's eyes the beauty in that moment was described to the hilt.

Mrs. Hermann is beautiful to me because I related to her from the second she introduced Liesel to her library.(And Michelle, had your untrusting theory been proven correct I would have felt sooo betrayed! Haha!)I even understood why she wanted to stay with Liesel every time she visited the library (before she started sneaking in to steal, LOL) because I **love** watching people react to my library. I like to watch them go through my books and show an appreciation for them. Even when she drifted off into her own thoughts about the past while Liesel was in there felt right because there is still that sense of being in the same room with a kindred spirit. That it was a young person in the story going through the library only added to it.(Reminding one of a younger version of one's self.) Ilsa was ugly in how she became trapped in her past and depression; that was the only part of her I did not relate to. Then again, I've never suffered the loss of a child so who knows how I would be had it happened to me. She was beautiful to me all over again when she saw the signs of Liesel becoming like her and she took the trouble to leave her house (something she never did) just to talk to her and warn her about being her. That, to me, showed just how much Liesel had come to mean to her. That's why it was no surprise when she and her husband took her in. It may have even been the only time she "wore the pants" in her marriage. I mean, really, the mayor certainly hadn't spent much time with Liesel so you know that conversation between husband and wife prior to showing up to take Liesel home with them must have been all Ilsa saying Look, that girl means a lot to me; I want her. Her husband was likely so shocked that she showed a little passion for something that wasn't book related (after all, he never came off sounding like a jerk anyway) he accepted it. Anyway, that's my idea of what went on off-stage in that scenerio. :)

message 24: by MichelleCH (last edited Nov 11, 2012 05:34PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

MichelleCH (lalatina) That is a great question Margaret. Maybe the ugly in Max is the fighting he loves. All his life the fight produced a great satisfaction for him. For Hans, I am stuck. He was perfect in my eyes.

I loved the part when Rosa went to the school. I was then absolutely convinced that she was all bark (and only a little bit of bite).

I suppose my distrust of Mrs. Hermann was because of her husband's position. I just wondered if they would betray the family in some way in order to stay on the 'right' side of the Nazis in power. I am so glad you were right!

I too like watching people look at my library. My living room has massive built-in bookcases packed with books. I think it is unexpected to see so many books in one room.

I like your version of what happened off-stage:)

MichelleCH (lalatina) So the second question is in the irony of Lesel's obsession with stealing books. For me it is ironic because for the most part books are the last things she needs. Food should be the number one thing to steal (which she did with mixed success). She also really didn't have to steal any books towards the end. She could have taken all she wanted from the Mayor's wife.

I also found it ironic that Hans and Rosa would have a son so committed to the Nazi party when his own family was haboring a Jew and wasn't a member of the party. Hans and Rosa also cared more for Max and Liesel than their own two natural children. We hear so little about who their natural children are and how they are faring. Very disconnected.

Lots of ironic situations throughout the book!

Margaret | 173 comments (Sorry! Had a very busy weekend followed by internet problems!) I think the key in Liesel is that she steals books even when she starving and has the opportunity to steal food. I think while she's starving her mind is "starving" even more. It started with her brother's death and then her mother's absence that put a huge void in her heart, despite how much she came to love Rosa and Hans. Stealing books temporarily pastes that hole. Then more bad things happen and the cycle starts all over again.

MichelleCH (lalatina) Now it's my turn to apologize; I didn't get a notification that you had replied. Overall I have so many conversations and comments going, it worries me as to what I am missing.

I like your thoughts around Liesel's hunger. I can certainly relate. Books are my comfort and I feel so drawn to them. I can't imagine not having all I wanted or needed.

Margaret | 173 comments I wasn't even worried about it. :) We can take this conversation as slow as you want and it's okay with me. I understand life sometimes happens and that other things go on in people's lives. No telling how many books we have both read between the two of us since we finished this book. LOL

MichelleCH (lalatina) Sounds good! True about the books read! Do you want to kick off the next question?

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