Book Review: The Book Thief

Book Review: The Book Thief
by Jennifer DePoorter

When I learned that The Book Thief, written by Markus Zusak, was selected as the 23rd book for One Book, One Chicago, I was shocked. I remember reading this book when I was thirteen, and I thought, “Isn’t this book for young adults? Why would this book be chosen?” Well readers, I read the book once more, and I found myself to be wrong. This is not a book for young adults. This is a book for everyone.

Written in 2006, The Book Thief was met with much success and won numerous awards, including being named as Best Book by the School Library Journal and the Young Adult Library services Association.

The protagonist, Liesel, is an orphan who finds love from a strange array of characters on Himmel Street, a poor part of town in Nazi Germany. There is her Mama, Rosa Hubermann, who expresses her love for Liesel by regularly beating her with a wooden spoon and calling her a “dirty little pig;” her Papa, Hans Hubermann, is a kind man who teaches Liesel to read in the dead of night; then there is Rudy, a boy who painted himself black with charcoal and decided to run like Jesse Owens, an American Olympian in the 1936 games.

Liesel is not an ordinary girl, as she has endured more than a young girl should. But after all, it is Nazi Germany, and these are not ordinary circumstances in which she lives. Through the course of this novel, she finds power and love in books and words as Hitler’s regime threatens to destroy everything and everyone Liesel holds dear. I cannot say much more about the plot because events happen quite slowly in Liesel’s life, until Max enters the scene, or more accurately, hides in her basement.

This is also not an ordinary book, as far as the narration. The genius of this book is Zusak’s decision to have Death narrate Liesel’s story, but he is not presented as the Grim Reaper. As Death puts it himself, “I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that’s only the A’s.” Death was vulnerable, and that vulnerability made the novel show that “humans can be worthwhile, and beautiful, even in the ugliest of times.”

This novel is achingly sad, in that while I was reading it, I constantly found myself clutching my heart. This novel forces the reader to be present on Himmel Street while to caring and rooting for Rudy and Liesel. It’s the type of novel that demands to be read.

Although it is 552 pages long, I highly suggest reading this book (if your attention span allows). Liesel’s experiences are hauntingly beautiful, and the people she meets a long the way…well, you should meet them, too. They might just make you believe in the power of words.

If you are interested, the Steppenwolf Theatre is producing its adaptation of The Book Thief from October 16th to November 19th. The public performances are on Saturdays at 3:00pm and 7:30pm, and Sundays at 3:00pm.

About the writer:
Jennifer DePoorter is a sophomore at DePaul, double majoring in Journalism and English, and is from Detroit, MI (Go Lions!). Her favorite book is The Catcher in the Rye, and while she is not writing, she enjoys watching terrible reality television shows.

This Week’s DePaul Literary Events (10/15/12)

Boo! October is bringing more literary events your way…
In case you weren’t already aware,
here is a list of upcoming DePaul and Chicago happenings
tonight and throughout the next couple weeks:

A Talk by Arturo Arias: Central Americans in the Second Decade of the 21st Century–
Old Scars, New Traumas, Disempowering Travails
Thursday, October 11th, 2012, 5:30-7:30pm
DePaul Student Center, Room 325
Arturo Arias is Professor of Latin American Literature at University of Texas-Austin and is a well-known expert on Central American literature, with a special emphasis on indigenous literature, as well as critical theory, race, gender and sexuality in postcolonial studies. Along with a wide range of written works, Arias also co-wrote the film El Norte (1984).  Twice the winner of the Casa de las Americas Award for his fiction, and winner of the Anna Seghers Award for fiction in Germany, and received the Miguel Angel Asturias National Award for Literature in 2008 in his native Guatemala.

Logan Theatre’s “Horror Movie Madness” Film Screening:
Frankenstein (1931)

October 12th, 13th, and 15th, 11:00pm
Logan Theatre, 2646 N. Milwaukee
Ever read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? Want a night out with some friends? Go see the classic (1931) Frankenstein at the Logan! Tickets are $7.

 

Poetry off the Shelf: Translating Poetry–Reading & Conversations
Friday, October 12th, 2012, 7:00pm 
Poetry Foundation, 61 West Superior
The Poetry Foundation hosts a continuation of a conversation originated at the American Academy in Rome last May. Four poet-translators will gather for readings and discussion with the intent of exploring current approaches to translating Polish and Italian poetry: Patrizia Cavallim Geofrrey Brock, Adam Zagajewski, and Northwestern professor, Clare Cavanagh.
Doors open 30 minutes before program; program will last approx. one hour. Free event presented by The Poetry Foundation. Summary found on Poetry Foundation website.

One Book, One Chicago: Paul Rusesabagina & Jerome McDonnell Talk
Tuesday, October 16th, 2012, 6:00pm
Harold Washington Library, Auditorium, 400. South State
This year’s selection for the Chicago Public Library’s citywide reading program is Markus Zusak’s novel The Book Thief. At this free event, Paul Rusesabagina (An Ordinary Man) talks with WBEZ’s Worldview host Jerome McDonnell about taking action against injustice.

One Book, One Chicago: Markus Zusak with Chicago Tribune
Monday, October 22, 2012, 6:00pm
Harold Washington Library, Auditorium, 400. South State
At this free event, author, Markus Zusak discusses the book with Chicago Tribune columnist, Dawn Turner Trice.

Poetry off the Shelf: Music/Words
Monday, October 22, 2012, 7:00pm
Curtiss Hall, The Fine Arts Building, 410 South Michigan
Celebrated pianist Inna Faliks is the founder and curator of the award-winning interdisciplinary series Music/Words, which explores the connections between poetry and music. She is joined by Valzhyna Mort, winner of Poetry magazine’s Bess Hokin Prize and the author of Factory of Tears and Collected Body, as well as Vera Pavlova, whose first poetry collection in English, If There Is Something to Desire, was a bestselling title in 2010. Works by Gubaidulina, Tchaikovsky, Lera Auerbach, Shchedrin, and Schumann will be performed.
Doors open 30 minutes before program; program will last approx. one hour. Free event presented by The Poetry Foundation. Summary found on Poetry Foundation website.

A World Away: Book Reading & Signing by Professor Nancy Grossman
Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012, 6:00pm
Barnes & Noble DePaul Campus Loop Store, State and Jackson
Nancy Grossman will be present for a reading and signing to celebrate the publication of her first novel, A World Away. A reception will follow the event. Copies of A World Away will be available for purchase.

For more information, contact Jennifer Kosco at jkosco@depaul.edu.

Stay tuned for more event updates coming your way next week!

This Week’s DePaul Literary Events (10/01/12)

 October is already on its way–and there are events aplenty for you to take advantage of!

Take a look at this upcoming week’s on-campus and local events:

Friday, September 28th

What? The Rose Metal Press reading with Barrie Jean Borich
Where? The Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln Ave. 
When? 7-9PM
Authors Barrie Jean Borich, Phillip Graham, Jenny Boully and Sue William Silverman will be reading from the collection–this event is open to the public. For more infomation, check their site: http://www.bookcellarinc.com/event/rose-metal-press-field-guide-writing-flash-nonfiction.

Tuesday, October 2nd

What? The Book Thief and the History of Reading
Where? Arts & Letters Hall 207, 2315 N. Kenmore Ave.
When? 6-8PM
(OBOC) One Book, One Chicago Event–For The Book Thief’s Liesel Meminger, reading is a means of both resistance and reconciliation. With attention to literature’s changing material and interpretive practices, DePaul faculty—Jenny Conary and Marcy Dinius, English; Lisa Z. Sigel, History; and Traci Schlesinger, Sociology—discuss what it has meant to be a reader in different times and places, from early modern Europe to today. Sponsored by DePaul University’s Department of English.

Click on the image for more information!

Thursday, October 4th

What? Indigenous Poetry
New Voices in the Humanities–Natalie Diaz, Santee Frazier, Orlando White
Where? LPC Student Center, Room 314
When? 5:30pm reception, 6:00pm lecture
Panel moderated by Mark Turcotte/ Presented by DePaul Humanities Center.

Click on the image for more information!

Friday, October 5th

What? Writer as Editor/ Editor as Writer:
featuring Dr. Phong Nguyen and Michael Nye
Where? Richardson Library, Room 115
When? 11:30am-1:30pm, lunch will be served.

Presented by the Visiting Writer’s Series.