The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

Title:  The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Author:  John Boyne

Paperback:  215 pages

ISBN:  9780552773805

Book Challenges:  War Through the Generations World War II Reading Challenge

‘I’m Shmuel,’ said the little boy.

Bruno scrunched up his face, not sure that he had heard the little boy right.  ‘What did you say your name was?’ he asked.

‘Shmuel,’ said the little boy as if it was the most natural thing in the world.  ‘What did you say your name was?’

‘Bruno,’ said Bruno.

‘I’ve never heard of that name,’ said Shmuel.

‘And I’ve never heard of your name,’ said Bruno.  ‘Shmuel.’  He thought about it.  ‘Shmuel,’ he repeated.  ‘I like the way it sounds when I say it.  Shmuel.  It sounds like the wind blowing.’

‘Bruno,’ said Shmuel, nodding his head happily.  ‘Yes, I think I like your name too.  It sounds like someone who’s rubbing their arms to keep warm…  I’m nine,’ he said.  ‘My birthday is April the fifteenth nineteen thirty-four.’

Bruno’s eyes opened wide and his mouth made the shape of an O.  ‘I don’t believe it,’ he said… ‘my birthday is april the fifteenth too.  And I was born in nineteen thirty-four.  We were born on the same day… We’re like twins,’ said Bruno.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, pages 109-110

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne is a story of friendship told through the eyes of Bruno, the nine-year-old son of a concentration camp Commandant.  Uprooted from friends and the only home he’s ever known, Bruno hates his new home in “Out-With,” his mispronunciation of Auschwitz, and makes sure everyone knows it.  But one day, when he goes out exploring the area around his house, he meets a boy his own age on the other side of the fence where everyone wears striped pyjamas all day.  The two quickly become friends, and meet as often as possible at the same time and spot everyday from then on.

One of the things I like about this book is Boyne’s layered subtleties.  Bruno, the naive and sheltered innocent, passes along clues of his mother’s infidelity, drinking and depression, as well as the competition that goes on between Gretel, his twelve-turning-thirteen year-old sister, and his mother for the attention of the young Lieutenant Koltor.  Bruno witnesses but can’t quite grasp the difference between him and his family and the people on the other side of the fence, asking different people about it with varying degrees of failure to get a satisfactory answer.  His father tells him the others aren’t people -not really, not in the way we think of.  The Lieutenant calls them a derogatory name that is never passed along in the book.  Gretel comes the closest to answering him, failing only because she herself doesn’t understand it, either, telling him that the people on the other side were Jews and they were The Opposite, and The Opposite hate the Jews.

There are a few things that just got under my skin with this book, however.  For instance, if these people are German, then I assume they speak German in their thoughts as well as conversations with one another.  I found it mildly irritating that Bruno would think “Auschwitz” would sound like “Aus mit” (the direct translation “Out-with”).  Or that he would hear “Der Führer” and think people were calling Hitler “Das Wut”.  Also, there are a lot of repetition in the book.  Okay, I get it… Father’s office is “Out of bounds at all times with no exceptions.”  I got that the first time.  And I caught it on page 1 that Bruno had some stuff that belonged to him and were nobody else’s business.  Another thing I really wish Boyne had added to the book was how Bruno and Shmuel would have spent their birthday.  No doubt Bruno would have had a party with cake and a big dinner, but how would he have shared the special day with his “twin”?

Boyne’s storytelling in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is reminiscent of Scout’s recounting in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, though not as well-done nor is Bruno as developed as a character as Scout was.  In Boyne’s attempt to reach as broad an audience as possible, the story is a bit like thin gruel.  Everyone can digest it, but it hasn’t got very much flavor.  If you are looking for a good book that glimpses the lives of the people during Nazi Germany, I’d recommend The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  The writing is magical, the storytelling point-of-view is unique, and the depth of even the tertiary characters are better than Bruno’s.

Still, I’m passing this book on to my kids.  I think it’s a good book to introduce young and reluctant readers to the subjects:  The Holocaust, racism, hate, friendship, loyalty, love.  I think 4th and 5th graders, particularly boys of that age, would enjoy this book the most.  For me, a mom with a children the same ages as Bruno and Gretel (not to mention the same relationship as the bickering siblings, as well), I found Bruno to be an exasperatingly annoying little whiner at times. 

I give The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne 3 out of 5 stars.  It’s an acceptable read, but for me, as forgettable as Bruno found his three best friends for life.   In a year, I doubt I’ll even remember their names.

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In 2008, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas was made into a movie.  I’ll have to put it on the top of my Netflix Queue, it looks fairly good.  Maybe they’ll address the birthday issue for me in it.

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LibraryThing’s Full of Beans…

Okay, I love LibraryThing.  It was my inspiration to start blogging in the first place.  Well, not technically, since I had already been blogging for a year or so before that, but it was the inspiration for THIS blog, which is the only one I do now and I enjoy it much more than what I was doing before.

But sometimes… LibraryThing is full of beans!  Check it…

On every LT works page (that’s the page for a specific book, if you don’t LT) there’s a bar right under “recommendations” and above the first review.  This bar is titled “Will you like it?”  and when you click the “Will I like it?” link, it tells you whether you LibraryThing thinks you will enjoy a book or not.

Let’s try an experiment.  I just recently read and reviewed The Last Lectureby Randy Pausch and it’s one of my new favorite books, but does LT think I like it?

I won't like it

Not only does LibraryThing think I won’t like it, but they’re certainty of this fact is very high.

Okay, then… Maybe that’s a fluke…  How ’bout Dune, then…. I loved the award-winning sci-fi/fantasy classic and think about the book every time I thirstily guzzle a bottle of water.  I wouldn’t have this luxury on Arakis, I tell myself.  I’ve got the next book in the series, Dune Messiah, on my Books on Deck Pile, even.  Surely LT will say, with a very high certainty, that I’ll LOVE Frank Herbert’s masterpiece Dune.

wtf?  I won't like DUNE?

Even with my all-time favorite book, The Book Thief, LT says I’l probably like it. “Probably like” is the middle of the graph, and the majority of books I check are “probably likes.” Occasionally I get a “You’ll love it!” but that’s a rare event, and I can’t think of the last book I got one on. Oddly enough, about half the books I give 4+ stars on gets the “probably WON’T like it” result.

I love to play with the graph and see if LT thinks I’ll love or hate books I’ve read, but I avoid checking it before I read a book because, even though I have such great proof it’s unreliable, I’ll actually give weight to the thing and NOT get a book if it says I won’t like it. Dumb, I know… and think of the books I would have missed if I had checked to see if I’d like it first.

By the way… LT thinks I’ll love The Gun Runner’s Daughter.

Dune by Frank Herbert

Title:  Dune

Author:  Frank Herbert

Date Published:  January 1977

Publisher:  Berkley Medallion Books

Miscellaneous:  1966 winner of the Hugo Award and was the inagural winner of the Nebula Award in 1965.

His mother was beside him, holding his hands, her face a gray blob peering at him.  “Paul, what’s wrong?”

….”What have you done to me?”  he demanded.

In a burst of clarity, she sensed some of the roots in the question, said:  “I gave birth to you.”

…”Did you know what you were doing when you tranined me?”  he asked.

There’s no more childhood in his voice, she thought.  And she said:  “I hoped the thing any parent hopes – that you’d be … superior, different.”

…”You didn’t want a son!”  he said.  “You wanted a Kwisatz Haderach!  You wanted a male Bene Gesserit!  … Did you ever consult my father in this?”

She spoke gently out of the freshness of her grief:  “Whatever you are, Paul, the heredity is as much your father as me.”

“But not the training,” he said.  “Not the things that awakened… the sleeper…. You wanted the Reverend Mother to hear about my dreams:  You listen in her place now.  I’ve just had a waking dream.  Do you know why?”

“You must calm yourself,” she said.  “If there’s -”

“The spice,” he said.  “It’s in everything here – the air, the soi, the food, the geriatric spice.  It’s like the Truthsayer drug.  It’s a poison!”

She stiffened.

His voice lowered and he repeated:  “A poison – so subtle, so insidious … so irreversible.  It won’t even kill you unless you stop taking it.  We can’t leave Arrakis unless we take part of Arrakis with us.”

The terrifying presence of his voice brooked no dispute.

“You and the spice,” Paul said.  “The spice changes anyone who gets this much of it, but thanks to you, I could bring the change to consciousness.  I don’t get to leave it in the unconscious where its distrubance can be blanked out.  I can see it.”

… She heard madness in his voice, didn’t know what to do…. We’re trapped here, she agreed.

Dune by Frank Herbert, pages 195-196

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I could seriously cry. I just wrote the full review, clicked “publish” and WordPress ATE IT! AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

short version.

Dune is really cool. read it.

I give it 5 out of 5.

Boo! WordPress!

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OKay, trying this again. *deep cleansing breath*

Dune by Frank Herbert is the science fiction/fantasy book of all time, with the exception of Tolkien’s work. It enfolds ecology, feudal lords, space travel, mysticism, and combat and creates an amazing world that is both an advancement of humanity, while at the same time the regression of it. I found the place water plays in the everyday life of the Fremen of the desert planet of Arrakis completely fascinating, it is the beginning and the ending of their existance, as well as the very essence and the centerpiece of their dream: Arrakis as an Eden.

Paul Muad’Dib has been trained in the Bene Gesserit ways by his mother, who disobeyed the command to give birth to a daughter, which has given him a hyper-awareness of the world and those around him. When his family is sent to Arrakis as his father, Duke Leto’s new fiefdom, the sudden supersaturation of melange, a cinnomon-y spice that extends life and allows the user to become more spiritually aware, and the shock of the attack from a rival Great House (“noble” family) forces a change in Paul. He is suddenly able to see all time, past present and future, and all their possibilities, and is troubled by the visions of jihad being mounted across the galaxy in his name and under his banner. He is determined to prevent this, while avenging his father’s death and leading the Fremen (native… sort of.. people of Arrakis) to autonomy and control of their planet and the spice found only on Arrakis.

I found Herbert’s imagination amazing. In Dune, Herbert created a future that was virtually unimaginable at the time. He gave the world its own rules and specific history. And he gave them a religion that has a sense of being the eventual mingling of the major religions. The Orange Catholic Bible is a sacred text, many of the names and terms have a Muslim feel, and the Litany Against Fear is positively Zen-like:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Dune Messiah 🙂

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Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Title:  Empire Falls

Author:  Richard Russo

Paperback:  483 pages

Date Published:  2001

PublisherVitage Books (a div of Random House)

ISBN:  9780375726408

MiscellaneousEmpire Falls won the 2002 Pulitizer Prize for Fiction

 

“Has it ever occurred to you that life is a river, dear boy?”  Mrs. Whiting said when Miles sat down opposite her in the gazebo.  In asking this question the old woman managed to convey, as with all such queries, that she was not anticipating a response that would enlighten her.  Whereas some people’s attitude suggested that perhaps they knew something you didn’t, Mrs. Whiting’s implied that she knew  everything  you didn’t.  She alone had been paying attention, so it was her duty to bring you at least partially up to speed.

Empire Falls by Richard Russo, page 161

Empire Falls by Richard Russois the multi-faceted and complex tale of the Central Maine town of Empire Falls. Woven together like a rich tapestry, it tells of the cross-generational intersections of the lives of its denizens, with the life of Miles Roby the central focus.

Miles has spent most of his life going with the flow. A devout Catholic, he’s predisposed to motivation-by-guilt and a nagging sensation that everything bad that’s ever happened can somehow, if one looked hard enough, back to him and is his fault. His desire to always do the right thing gives him the unintended air of moral superiority that can be repellent, and the fact that he attended 3 1/2 years of college before returning to Empire Falls when his mother was on her death bed gives him an added perception of intellectual superiority. All of this is not a truth about Miles, only what others sometime perceive about him.

Opposite Miles are Jimmy Minty and Mrs. Whiting. Jimmy Minty, Mr. Empire Falls as he referred to himself, is a police officer and possibly the next Chief of Police. Whereas Miles can seem morally and intellectually superior to the town even though it’s everything he is NOT, Minty is the “everyman”. People may not like him, but at least he’s one of them and knows it. What the town does NOT know is that this “everyman” has keys to each and every lock in Dexter County, a houseful of stolen electronics and no tangible income to explain his ownership of a shiny, new, red Camaro.

Minty’s off-the-book work as Mrs. Whiting’s muscle is, of course, how he affords the car. Think of a Bedford Falls in which George Baily just went along, obligingly, with what Old Man Potter said, and you’d have Empire Falls. Mrs. Whiting is Russo’s answer to Mr. Potter. Incapable of feeling love herself, she has an incredible knack of uncovering that affliction in others and does her best to eradicate it. “Power and Control” are the words by which she lives, and tells Miles that people often confuse will with power, and that the “power” they perceive the lucky few as having is simply that they know what they want in life and go after it.

 

“You appear to have been visited by some sort of revelation, dear boy,” Mrs. Whiting observed. “Here’s my suggestion, though. Why not think things over? Passionate decisions are seldom very sound.”

“When did you ever feel passion?”

“Well, it’s true I’m seldom swept away like those with more romantic temperaments,” she conceded. “But we are what we are, and what can’t be cured must be endured.”

“What can’t be cured mus be avenged,” Miles said. “Isn’t that what you mean?”

She smiled appreciatively. “Payback is how we endure, dear boy…”

Empire Falls by Richard Russo, pages 434-435

 

Another of Miles nemeses, Timmy the Cat, is one of my favorite characters in this book.  Timmy, found and adopted by Mrs. Whiting’s daughter Cindy, had, as a small kitten, been placed in a sack with her litter-mates and tossed into the Knox, the river that runs through Empire Falls.  She was the lone survivor and never right in the head ever after.  Described by Miles in such loving terms as “psychotic” or “homicidal”, Timmy is whispered by the townspeople (usually in the bar and after a few drinks) to be Mrs. Whiting’s familiar.  Appearing as if from thin air whenever Mrs. Whiting’s name is spoken, as if the uttering of her mistress’s name was the spell to summon the demon cat.  In a way, Timmy is representative of Mrs. Whiting’s nature and how she relates to people, as if she were a cat and they the wounded prey she toyed with until they bored her and she finally ended their lives.

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It took me a while to finish Empire Falls, and a bit longer than that to write this review.  It is a dense and complex novel, with several sub-plots and sub-stories.  There’s Tick, Miles’s daughter, and her steady march to adulthood.  Will she become passive and resigned to whatever the fate’s bring like her dad?  David Roby, Miles (maybe half) brother, and his life of sobriety after an accident caused by his own drunk driving, rendered his left hand useless.  And, of course, there’s the incorrigible Max Roby, Miles father, who’s life philosophy can be condensed into two words, “So What!”  Max is always on the look out for the hand out and badgers his son  for money, promising him if he’d just give him $500 then he’d take off for the Florida Keys, and he’d be out of Miles’s hair for a whole New England winter.  Tempting, Miles thinks, before realizing the old man would just call for more money once he got there.

After considering and weighing Empire Falls by Richard Russo, I came to the understanding that the best way to describe it is that it’s a “grown up book”.  Not necessarily for language, though it does have plenty of that, nor for sexual content, ditto, or for violence, though there is animal cruelty and a shooting in it, but rather that it’s the kind of book that rings several emotional and experiential bells that one needs to have lived a little to even begin to catch the nuances and appreciate the full sensations found in the book.

For its intimate and tangible moving portrayal of life in a small town, I give Empire Falls by Richard Russo  4 1/2 out of 5 stars.  I cannot, for the life of me, explain why I’m holding that last 1/2 back… perhaps because it’s not a WOW book, but rather, like water slowly flowing along, eroding the rocks and banks slowly and imperceptively over time, until, all at once and a long way down river, it’ll suddenly hit me.

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I’ve been watching the HBO mini-series Empire Falls, based on this book.  It’s a really good show, and does a good job of staying close to the book, in spirit if not literally.  The screenplay was also written by Richard Russo.  As for the casting, I wasn’t entirely stoked about Ed Harris as Miles, but I did like Paul Newman’s Max Roby, and thought William Fichtner as Jimmy Minty was SPOT ON. 🙂

and a twofer, this one is a brief “making of” but gives a great feel for the book itself.

The Book Thief companion post

I decided to make a second post for The Book Thief, as my review was taking on an extended life of it’s own and would have eventually grown beyond 3000 words.  Since a lot of what is in this post isn’t a review of the book itself, I thought it best to put the following in a companion post.

Other thoughts about and quotes from The Book Thief:

Last week’s “Booking Through Thursday” question had to do with books made into movies, including the question “What book would you NOT want to be made into a movie?”  At the time, I really didn’t have an answer for that question, but NOW I do.

I don’t ever want to see The Book Thief made into a movie.  One of the major points of beauty with this book is the writing itself.  Zusak’s poetic and illustrative narrative cannot POSSIBLY be translated to the screen.  It is the word pictures and imaginative imagery that make The Book Thief so special, and I believe that when this book is presented in an acted-out format it will simply become just another sad, hard-knock-life, World-War-Two story like so many others that line the video store’s shelves.

Sadly, it is already optioned and in the pre-production stage with a tentative release date of 2010.  *sighs and cries*   Honestly, tell me how the following passage can be “re-formatted” for the big screen:

     …For some reason, dying men always ask questions they know the answer to.  Perhaps it’s so they can die being right.

The voices suddenly all sounded the same.
     Robert Holtzapfel collapsed to his right, onto the cold and steamy ground.
     I’m sure he expected to meet me there and then.
He didn’t.
     Unfortunately for the young German, I did not take him that afternoon.  I stepped over him with the other poor souls in my arms and made my way back to the Russians.
     Back and forth, I travelled.
Disassembled men.
     It was no ski-trip, I can tell you.

     As Michael told his mother, it was three very long days later that I finally came for the soldier who left his feet behind in Stalingrad.  I showed up very much invited at the temporary hospital and flinched at the smell.
     A man with a bandaged hand was telling the mute, shock-faced soldier that he would survive.  “You’ll soon be going home,” he assured him.
     Yes, home, I thought.  For good.
     “I’ll wait for you,” he continued.  “I was going back at the end of the week, but I’ll wait.”
     In the middle of his brother’s next sentence, I gathered up the soul of Robert Holtzapfel.
     Usually, I need to exert myself, to look through the ceiling when I’m inside, but I was lucky in that particular building.  A small section of the roof had been destroyed and I could see straight up.  A metre away, Michael Holtzapfel was still talking.  I tried to ignore him by watching the hole above me.  The sky was white but deteriorating fast.  As always, it was becoming an enormous dust sheet.  Blood was bleeding through, and in patches, the clouds were dirty, like footprints in melting snow.
     Footprints? you ask.
Well, I wonder whose those could be.

     In Frau Holtzapfel’s kitchen, Liesel read.  The pages waded by unheard, and for me, when the Russian scenery fades in my eyes, the snow refuses to stop falling from the ceiling.  The kettle is covered, as is the table.  The humans, too, are wearing patches of snow, on their heads and shoulders.
     The brother shivers.
The woman weeps.
     And the girl goes on reading, for that’s why she’s there, and it feels good to be good for something in the aftermath of the snows of Stalingrad.

 The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, pages 475-477

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When Nazi soldiers march some Jewish prisoners back to the work camp in Dachau, the “parade” makes its way through Molching.   The following quote describes this event:

On Munich Street, they watched.
     … They watched the Jews come down the road like a catalogue of colours.  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.  They would each greet me like their last true friend, with bones like smoke, and their souls trailing behind.

     When they arrived in full, the noise of their feet throbbed amongst the road.  Their eyes were enormous in their starving skulls.  And the dirt.  The dirt was moulded to them.  Their legs staggered as they were pushed by soldiers’ hands – a few wayward steps of forced running before the slow return to a malnourished walk.
     … The suffering faces of depleted men and women reached across to them, pleading not so much for help – they were beyond that – but for an explanation.  Just something to subdue this confusion.
     Their feet could barely rise above the ground.
Stars of David were plastered to their shirts, and misery was attached to them as if assigned. “Don’t forget your misery…” In some cases, it grew on them like a vine.
     At their side, the soldiers also made their way past, ordering them to hurry up and to stop moaning.  Some of those soldiers were only boys themselves.  They had the Fuhrer in their eyes.
     … Liesel was certain that these were the poorest souls alive…  Their gaunt faces were stretched with torture.  Hunger ate them as they continued forward, some of them watching the ground to avoid the people on the side of the road.  Some looked appealingly at those who had come to observe their humiliation, this prelude to their deaths.  Others pleaded for someone, anyone, to step forward and catch them in their arms.
     No-one did.
Whether they watched this parade with pride, temerity or shame, nobody came forward to interrupt it.  Not yet.
     Once in a while, a man or woman – no, they were not men and women, they were Jews – would find Liesel’s face amongst the crowd.  They would meet her with their defeat, and the book thief could only watch them back in a long, incurable moment before they were gone again.  She could only hope they could read the depth of sorrow in her face, to recognise that it was true, and not fleeting.
     … She understood that she was utterly worthless to these people.  They could not be saved, and in a few minutes, she would see what would happen to those who might try to help them.

In a small gap in the procession, there was a man, older than the others.
     He wore a beard and torn clothes.
His eyes were the colour of agony, and weightless as he was, he was too heavy for his legs to carry.

The book Thief by Markus Zusak, pages 398-400

I particularly love the line, “His eyes were the colour of agony,” and hate to see that lost when it’s on screen. 

One line in the previous quote that I find particularly chilling is, “Some of those soldiers were only boys themselves.  They had the Fuhrer in their eyes.” 

We often consider Hitler’s greatest evil being the systematic devastation of an entire people group.  Certainly, his “final solution” that brought about the deaths of approximately 6 million Jews, what is more commonly referred to as The Holocaust, was an unimaginably horribly wicked thing.  However, not to sound dismissive, those six million people are dead and gone.  If it had ended there, it would have been an appallingly grotesque act of a fiend.

No, the greatest evil still being perpetrated by Hitler was the indoctrination of childred.  “They had the Fuhrer in their eyes.”  Those boy soldiers grew up and taught their children the doctrines of hate.  And when those children had children of their own, they too passed on the poisonous cancer of intolerance.  As terrible as these beliefs are for those to whom they are directed, the worst pain of all is inflicted on the believers themselves.  They will never know peace and love, and they will never truly experience a sense of self-acceptance.  Hate only breeds more hate.  And in this way, Hitler still lives on and continues to enslave and destroy his followers.

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The following quote describes the residents of an undamaged Himmel Street returning home after an air raid:

The only sign of war was a cloud of dust migrating from east to west.  It looked through the windows, trying to find a way inside, and as it simultaneously thickened and spread, it turned the trail of humans into apparitions.
     There were no people on the street any more.
     They were rumours carrying bags.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, page 390

ARGH!  I just can’t see a movie being able to give you that.  “They were rumours carrying bags.”  They can make the set smoky, and they can have people trudge in front of the camera, but how can it ever fully express them as rumors?

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One of the stresses in the Hubermann household is that Hans isn’t a card-carrying party member.  Because he gave a Jewish shop owner back a little bit of his dignity by painting over an anti-Semitic slur on his door, Hans had never been approved membership.  Without being a member, people were reluctant to hire him as a painter.

What probably saved him was that people knew he was at least waiting for his application to be approved.  For this, he was tolerated, if not endorsed as the competent painter he was.
     Then There was his other saviour.
It was the accordion that most likely spared him from total ostracism.  Painters there were, from all over Munich, but under the brief tutorage of Erik Vandenburg and nearly two decades of his own steady practice, there was no-one in Molching who could play exactly like him.  It was a style not of perfection, but of warmth.  Even mistakes had a good feeling about them.

The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak, page 191

Hans’ accordion had belonged to Erik Vandenburg, his friend and fellow soldier in World War I and the man who saved Hans’ life.  Hans and Erik had passed the time learning and playing the accordion, and in the years that followed Hans had developed his own special style that was much loved in his community.  Ironically, Erik Vandenburg was a Jew.

And being a Jew in Nazi Germany was the least desirable position of all, as the following quote points out:

You could argue that Liesel Meminger had it easy.  She did have it easy compared to Max Vandenburg.  Certainly, her brother practically died in her arms.  Her mother abandoned her.

But anything was better than being a Jew.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, page 168

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When Liesel first comes to live with the Hubermann’s at nine years of age, she is completely illiterate.  As Hans works with her, first teaching her the alphabet then words and sentences, she begins to understand and sense the power bound within the covers of books, and books themselves become objects of priceless worth.  So, when Liesel first steps into the personal library of Mayor’s wife, she is overcome with joy at the sight of it:

“Jesus, Mary… “

She said it out loud, the words distributed into a room that was full of cold air and books.  Books everywhere!  Each wall was armed with overcrowded yet immaculate shelving.  It was barely possible to see the paintwork.  There were all different styles and sizes of lettering on the spines of the black, the red, the grey, the every-coloured books.  It was one of the most beautiful things Liesel Meminger had ever seen.

With wonder she smiled.

That such a room existed!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, page 141

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The last of my little post-it flags have been removed from my book, and I’m out of quotes.  I think I can finally part with my copy of The Book Thief, it’s destined for a fellow BookMoocher, though I guarantee I will grab any… and every, in all likelihood… copy I come across in the future.  I know I will re-read this book again, and probably more than once.

The final quote I’ll end this post with is the first few lines of the book:

First the colours.
     Then the humans.
That’s usually how I see things.
     Or at least, how I try.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, page 13

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Title: Wuthering Heights

Author: Emily Brontë

Hardback: 356 pages

Publisher: Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc.

Publish Date: 1942

Miscellaneous: This was a book from the library.

“…I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in Heaven; and if the wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn’t have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as deifferent as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.”he remained, Ishould still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I amHeathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being…”

Ere this speech ended, I became sensible of Heathcliff’s presence… He had listened till he heard Catherine say it would degrade her to mayrry him, and then he stayed to hear no further.

“…My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself. If all perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger; I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being…”

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, pages 99-101

I was shocked recently when, while reading Eclipse the third book in The Twilight Series, I had never read Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. As often as the book has been discussed, referred to, and mentioned, I had a generally understanding and memory of the book and thought I had read it. But when I read the quotes from it in Eclipse, I became embarrassingly aware I hadn’t ever experienced it first hand. Even worse, I went to grab it out of my home library only to find I had never even bought the book! *shock!*

So I trundled off to our public library and borrowed a nice, well-worn and slightly tattered book from their shelf and started, “I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with.” on Sunday evening, and finished with “I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.” earlier today, and loved it!

The story is told by Ellen Dean, who has been a servant all her life between the two houses, beginning at Wuthering Heights with the Earnshaws then at Thrushcross Grange with the Lintons where Mr. Lockwood, reader by proxy, meets Dean and receives her tale. It is a cautionary tale displaying the effects of holding onto wrongs suffered and loves lost and how the bitterness and desire for revenge that can come from them takes over one’s life, leaving no room for love and healthy attachments, and can destroy the lives of people who are innocent of the original offenses.

In Wuthering Heights, the two loves of Catherine Linton nee Earnshaw are juxtaposed and exemplified by the two properties. While Catherine and Heathcliff’s love is passionate, wild and like a force of nature, Catherine’s marriage to Edgar Linton represents all the social respectability and gentility she desires for her life. The uniting of these two loves is foreshadowed when Mrs. Dean finds the lock of Linton’s hair on the floor and a lock of Heathcliff’s in Catherine’s locket and twines the two together before putting the flaxen-and-black twist back into the locket.

While Heathcliff has every right to feel wronged by what is done to him by both Hindley Earnshaw (his foster brother) and by Edgar Linton (the chosen husband of the woman he loves), he could have let go of the past and moved on, experiencing the joys of many neuvo riche have done. However, he refuses to forgive and comes back to Wuthering Heights to set about exacting his revenge on those directly responsible, Hindley and Linton, and on those they love and even on their children, exacting payment from even his own son. In the end, though, he is left with nothing but emptiness, having all the power to finish his plan by destroying the properties, but no longer having the passion to do so.

He tells Ellen Dean:

“With my hard constitution and tempermate mode of living, and unperilous occupations, I ought to, and probably shall, remain above ground till there is scarecely a black hair on my head. And yet I cannot continue in this condition! I have to remind myself to breath – almost to remind my heart to beat! And it is like bending back a stiff spring: it is by compulsion that I do the slightest act not prompted by one thought; and by compulsion that I notice anything alive or dead, which is not associated with one universal idea. I have a single wish, and my whole being and faculties are so unwaveringly, that I’m convinced it will be reached – and soon – because it has devoured my existence: I am swallowed up in the anticipation of its fulfilment… O God! It is a long fight, I wish it were over.”

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, pages 342-343

There is an image painted in my mind by Brontë with this book. It is of a sweet, cool brook that babbles through a spring-flower covered countryside. Somewhere along the waterway, the brook’s path has been stopped up by garbage, and the water has spread out and flooded the surround area. The greenery downstream has begun to brown and show wont of regular watering. But as I walk further along the dry brook, I come to a spot where the water has meandered around the ground and come back to its original bed to continue once more as if it had never been seperated. Time, and gravity, often brings sides back together.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë is definitely one of my favorite classic books, and would have to be on my top 50 books list. It is fascinating and compelling, and has a universal message that will be applicable as long as people are humans. 5 out of 5 stars 😀

hated it!didn't like itit was okayliked itLoved it!

trailer for the 1992 movie of Wuthering Heights: