Wednesday, February 29, 2012
The February meeting of Muse and Views was held at Colette's home, with Betty hosting. Lovely wines, hors d'oeuvres, and Joe's fresh cinnamon buns and coffee warmed us up on a wintery evening. Betty, Carla, Janet, Shirley, Colette and Jolene attended. We discussed The Book Thief by Marcus Suzak, Betty's choice and a real hit with most of the group. Betty had not read the book beforehand, but was pleased with the choice, suggested to her by a friend from another club.
Betty gave us some background on the author, who was born of an Austrian father and a German mother. Their lives helped inspire the book; in fact, the loveable Hans Huberman was a house painter like Suzak's father. Another detail of interest was that Suzak's dad had been forced into the Hitler Youth program as a young person. Suzak wanted young adults to get a different perspective of the Holocaust and to try to find beautiful moments in ugly times. He was surprised by the success of the novel, which won a Michael L. Printz award. (What a great surname for someone in the literary domain!) The book was originally published as adult fiction in Australia, where the author's parents had emigrated after the war. Several commented that they were surprised that the book has been classified locally as teen or young adult fiction, no doubt largely because it is a coming-of-age story.
Another theme of the book was the power of words, whether the power of Hitler's words to inspire hatred, or the power of Leisel's oral reading to bring encouragement to townspeople during difficult times. The narrator of the story was Death, and most found this interesting. The perspective of a German child was also appreciated, since we often see the Holocaust from an adult, Jewish viewpoint. All but one found the characters very well described, with even foul-mouthed Rosa endearing because of her good heart.
The only real criticisms were that the book was sometimes difficult to follow, with so much jumping around, and that a better explanation could have been given as to why Rosa and Hans would want to foster the child of a communist in Nazi Germany. In the end, however, all were glad they had read the book, and some said they might not have to read any further to decide on the "Best Pick" of the year.