This is an idea I had for something different to do with my blog... I wanted something sort of like a guest review, but I decided to spice it up and make it more than your traditional review... so I made it into an interview instead. An Inte(Re)view.
So I talked to my good friend Megan, and she agreed to do an Inte(Re)view with me all about The Book Thief. Feel free to visit her blog here.
So, without further ado, here is our Inte(Re)view!
Chelsie: Thanks for being my first Inte(Re)viewee.
Megan: Sure! You know it is my pleasure. Can't shut me up about books, as you well know.
Chelsie: Of course. Now to start off, mind telling everyone what I'm interviewing you about?
Chelsie: Which, as a lot of us should know, is pretty popular and comes highly recommended, would you say so?
Megan: Yes, I was just looking at several blog reviews since reading it. I have heard nothing but good things about it from everyone I mentioned I was reading it to. Most of the blog reviews were very positive, doting it as the best book they had read all year (granted there has been quite a time frame since the book as been published.)
Chelsie: Yeah, as far as I'm aware it's been around since 2005. [[Correcting myself: 2006?]] So, thinking about the fact that it comes highly recommended, what would you say if I told you I started it a couple years ago and never made it to the halfway mark?
Megan: Well I read this book as part of an online book club as my blog readers and Teen Tuesday members know. The neat thing about this book club is that it has a podcast that goes along with it. I just finished listening to it and one of the book club members felt like it was very slow starting. I have actually heard this in a lot of different places. The interesting aspect for me was that it grabbed me right from the beginning.
Chelsie: Well I know different books affect readers in different ways. Which is what makes reading such a fun hobby. So, all in all, would you recommend it to me to try again?
Megan: Yes. Some people love this book so much they would recommend it to strangers on the street. But I am not one of those people. I really liked it, but I wouldn't recommend it unless someone asked me specifically about it. I really like The Book Thief's slice of life take on Nazi Germany. It is just a simple story about a girl.
Chelsie: So what would you say you particularly liked about it? What captivated you the most?
Megan: The concept of Death as narrator is really interesting. The problem is it isn't explicitly stated who is narrating, you think you know but it is far into the book before it is confirmed for you. I think it would have been more impactful knowing from the beginning. There was something I really liked about when he was talking and the way he talked about the colors in the world that really grabbed me. Some people cared more about the other narrative, the one of the little girl. But the voice of Death, wanting to hear it again, really pulled me through the story.
Oh, and I am just calling Death the stereotypical he, there is a very purposeful sexlessness to the narrator.
Chelsie: That does sound like an interesting concept. From what I remember of the beginning, I was extremely confused about who was talking (which may or may not be one of the reasons I didn't finish) and so I agree that knowing that Death is narrating at the beginning would be interesting, and probably less confusing. So, on the subject as Death as a narrator, in a New York Times review it's making me think that he's almost sympathetic. Is this something you knew from the beginning, or something that you gradually began to learn, just as you gradually found out about who the narrator actually was?
Megan: From the beginning Death creates an intentional detachment from the humans. That is part of the reason he focuses on the colors. But as you move through the story you do see and feel it impacting him a little bit. The tones get a little warmer.
Here is the first line of the book:
"First the colors. Then the humans. That's usually how I see things. Or at least how I try."
Chelsie: So basically, having Death as a narrator is almost like getting a narrator who has no emotional attachment, where if one of the other characters had been the narrator through the whole thing, it would have been a completely different type of book. Am I somewhat right about that?
Megan: Oh yes it would have been a completely different kind of book, but when the narrative of the little girl was going it was a very different voice than that of Death, it was also not her own, but it had that light detachment of looking at stranger through a window.
Chelsie: And one last question on the subject of Death, just to make things simpler: Do you think that having Death as a narrator was a wise choice on the author's part? Or do you think it would have been better had he taken a different approach to the story telling? Basically, did it enhance the book or hinder it?
Megan: It was definitely a wise choice for the book and it enhanced it in so many ways. We all learn in school the horrors of the holocaust, but there was just something about this book that we really impactful.
Chelsie: So it's definitely not light reading.
Megan: No, on the podcast there was some discussion on the appropriate age level for this book. Even though it is classified as young adult the narrative is not traditional. Some feel strongly that the style of the book limits it to upper teens only. But I think it is more about the individual reader and the experience. Some schools have it as required reading for middle school. I can honestly tell you that there were times when I was reading it that I was flat out bored, but if I was reading it for school I would have felt like it was an excellent choice.
Chelsie: So did it meet or exceed your expectations? And how does this book compare to other books, movies, TV shows, etc. that have similar topics?
Megan: I was lucky in that I didn't have any or many expectations. I didn't know what the book was about beforehand. Just the mild impression it had something to do with Nazis. I loved the book at the beginning and only liked it at the end. Most people had the opposite reaction.
This book was very impactful regarding the topic. I like how it was about every day people living their life and not a story about some of the more dramatic aspects of Nazis that are commonly written about.
I have been thinking particularly about other young adult books I have personally read regarding this subject matter. Each one can be impactful in different ways. Night for me was completely horrifying and it still haunts me. Alan and Naomi was one of the first books I ever read about the impact of Nazis. The Book Thief is a cross section of the whole experience, hinting on each of the aspects these other books focus on primarily.
If you are only going to read one book on the holocaust, yes, it should probably be this one. But I feel it also makes a splendid companion to other books on the same subject matter.
Chelsie: Are there any other similar books you've read that you would recommend to fans of The Book Thief, or any to just recommend, period?
Megan: For younger readers Number the Stars by Lois Lowry is really good
For a bit of a lighter take on the matter I would recommend Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene (particularly popular with reluctant readers, though I have not identified why)
and then of course the two I mentioned above, I am really excited because Alan and Naomi has been out of print for some years, but it looks like they just re-released it last year
it is by Myron Levoy, and I don't honestly remember it that well but I read it in 6th grade and I know it really impacted me
Night by Elie Wiesel is the one I have read the most recently besides The Book Thief, but it is very intense, you are really forced to stare reality in the face
Chelsie: So, back to The Book Thief, could you give us a rating on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best?
Megan: Oh, maybe about a 7. I really liked it, but I was bored near the end and though I know I would enjoy rereading it, get more depth from it, I am not particularly interested in doing so. But don't let my unenthusiam deter you from reading it. In part I was on a time crunch and HAD to finish it.
Chelsie: And now that I'm running out of relevant questions, do you have anything you'd like to add?
Megan: Yes, I would like to share another quote from the book.
Part of the reason why I liked the voice of Death so much is that I really liked the way he/the writer found unique ways of describing things. In the following quote you can feel the occupation of Death and also the sympathy. This is from page 175 in the hardcover edition.
"I shoveled up his soul with the rest of them and we drifted away. The horizon was the color of milk, cold and fresh. Poured out among the bodies."
Chelsie: Now that is certainly interesting
Thank you for participating, Megan!
Megan: Thanks for having me a part of this. It has been really fun to share my experiences about reading this book. I hope people enjoy reading my answers as much as I enjoyed coming up with them.
There you have it, my very first (and hopefully not last) Inte(Re)view.
Please let me know if this is a good idea, or if it's absolutely suck-tastic.
Also, if you like the idea and are interested in being Inte(Re)viewed, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
PS. This is me hoping and praying and begging that this posts okay the first time... I really don't want to have to re-do it...