1. What’s your first impression of Death as a character/narrator?
Its a little hard because my first impression was a long time ago. I remember feeling a little apprehensive and thinking ‘Is this just a gimmick? What is this going to be like?’ Now on my 5th read through I welcome his sarcastic, slightly bitter tone. I think it is the only way you could create a nuetral voice in a story about wwII, especially one set in Germany. I know a lot of people struggle with death as the narrator but I think in a book like this you just have to go with it.
I love how the he describes the colors and flavors of the sky when he takes the people. I can’t explain it but I know exactly what he is talking about. Different moments in life do have colors and flavors. Brilliant.
2. What’s your first impression of the unique writing style?
When I first read it I was in a rut where I felt like all book seemed the same. I found Zusak’s writing to be so different that it was intoxicating. I didn’t want to put it down. I love how many characters he manages to keep interest in and he doesn’t bog down in details of setting or time but allows the reader to picture a lot of that herself.
I love how death brings makes the reader think. For example he asks us about fate? Is it the cause of the tragedies:
Of course not.
Let’s not be stupid.
It probably had more to do with the hurled bombs, thrown down by humans hiding in the clouds.
3. Which character stands out to you the most so far and why?
I loved Rudy. His innocence with the Jesse Owens stunt and his friendliness with Liesel. He doesn’t understand what it means to be jewish, catholic or even black. He in many ways is the opposite of the jaded death character.
I also immediately loved Hans. My heart always opens to characters with pure intentions. Hans is a good soul. He even loves Rosa!
4. What do you think the author is trying to say about the power of words?
Well throughout the book there is a theme of stealing words. Liesel says she is “watching the words” when she first learns to read. Then she steals books throughout the story. When it gets to the story of the word chaser we see that even the fuhrer cannot stop the power of words and yet he created words.
5. How do you feel about all the foreshadowing that’s going on?
Gripping. Some of it is outright like with Rudy and the kiss and others are more subtle like Liesel learning to read the Gravediggers Handbook or her first book.
6. Also, how do you feel about all that German swearing?!?
Honestly this I could have done without so much of it. It really made Rosa a hard character for me to like and it makes the book harder to recommend to younger audiences. Still, in a way it makes Rosa a more dynamic character. I couldn’t figure her out on the first 2 readings. I didn’t like her and still bristle at some of her behavior.
7. What do you think about the relationship between Hans and Rosa?
Rosa is perhaps the most complex character in the novel. Why is she such a beast and yet she hides a jewish man and a communist’s daughter? There has to be some good in her. I couldn’t help but think of some old couples that I know where the man/woman is all gentleness and lightness but their partners are tough and more practical. It seems like a combo you see a lot. They don’t give you a ton of her backstory or explain her character motivations. She works hard and is tired. Its almost as if she is the death character on earth.
8. What do you think about the relationship between Rudy and Liesel?
Rudy is one of my favorite characters. He is so sweet and lovely. I think him and Liesel match well as friends. They both have a nonchalance that is very appealing and both do not seem to care what others think about them. I love the moment where Liesel finally unwinds the grief of her brother to Rudy. Not to an adult but to a fellow-sufferer.
9. What are your feelings on the politics of the time that we’ve seen so far?
I think Zusak does a good job of keeping the politics and even the setting as a eerie background. We all know what is meant when Hans and Liesel take the washing to Dachau. We know what the 3rd Reich did. As readers we are all just waiting for the characters to figure it out. Figure out the evil amongst them. Hans and Rosa know that’s why Hans plays his accordion. When will the children figure it out?
Death says that the Nazi’s came into power because Germans enjoyed burning things. “Shops, synagogues, […] personal items, slain people, and of course, books”. I can see how destruction has its own sense of power and control. In a time of economic nothingness power could be extra intoxicating but Zusak doesn’t get caught up in these historical details but it is an undercurrent.
10. What images and/or symbols stand out for you in this story so far?
There are a lot. You have things like the jewish star, heil hitler, jesse owens, the colors of the sky, everything.
What did you guys think of the first part? Here is the page on Suey’s books with her thoughts. Enjoy!