Tag Archives: germany

#28 The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak

9 Jan
The Book Thief - Marcus Zusak

The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak

Goodreads rating: 4.36/5 (414K+ ratings)
My rating: 9/10
First Published: 14th March 2006
Genre: Historical Fiction

When I put on Facebook that I was about to read this book I got loads of responses like ‘One of my favourite books, it really is beautiful’, and ‘this is my favourite book – it’s amazing’, and I thought ‘yeah, yeah okay so it’s a good book – probably really overrated.’

But I was so wrong. This is a beautiful, thoughtful, interesting, well written story – especially for a book lover. It’s about a young girl, Liesel Meminger whose younger brother dies, and whose mother gives her away to the Hubermann’s – a German family living in Molching – just out of Munich. They have two older children in their 20s and take on Liesel as one of their own. When her little brother dies on their way to the Hubermann’s, she finds a book buried in the snow near his grave. She steals it. This is the start of her book thievery career.

Narrated by Death, The Book Thief follows Liesel in her quest to learn how to read, and her journey on understanding the world during Nazi Germany – at the height of Hitler’s reign. She’s a really likeable character, and the majority of the characters are relatable and likeable.

The movie came out in Australia today and I’m looking forward to seeing it this weekend, although I doubt it will do the book justice. Obviously I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I highly recommend reading the book before watching the movie as the books are always better than the movies.

Bits & pieces

  • Was listed on the New York Times Best Seller list for 230 weeks
  • Zusak took 3 years to complete the book and even went to Munich, Germany to research some of the finer points
  • Zusak said that writing the book was inspired by two real-life events related to him by his German parents: the bombing of Munich, and a teenage boy offering bread to an emaciated Jew being marched through the streets, ending with both boy and Jewish prisoner being whipped by a soldier.
  • He rewrote the first 90 pages of The Book Thief 150-200 times

Sources: The Guardian; The Book Thief Fan Page; Shmoop;

Notable quotes

He must have loved her so incredibly hard. So hard that he would never ask for her lips again and would go to his grave without them.

The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn’t be any of this. Without words, the Führerwas nothing.

The last time I saw her was red. The sky was like soup, boiling and stirring. In some places it was burned. There were black crumbs and pepper, streaked across the redness. 

In fact, on April 20 – the Führer’s birthday – when she snatched a book from beneath a steaming pile of ashes, Liesel was a girl made of darkness. 

For me, the sky was the color of Jews.

In front of him, he read from the copy of Mein Kampf. His savior. Sweat was swimming out of his hands. Fingermarks clutched the book.

She was a Jew feeder without a question in the world on that man’s first night in Molching. She was an arm reacher, deep into a mattress, to deliver a sketchbook to a teenage girl.

“When a Jew shows up at your place of residence in the early hours of the morning, in the very birthplace of Nazism, you’re likely to experience extreme levels of discomfort. Anxiety, disbelief, paranoia” 

-H-

If you’ve read this, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts or reading your reviews so please share any links!

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#17 Stasiland – Anna Funder

21 Feb
Stasiland - Anna Funder

Stasiland – Anna Funder

Goodreads rating: 4.14/5 (2,000+ ratings)

My rating: 7.5/10

First Published: December 5th, 2003 by Text Publishing

Genre: Non-Fiction, History

Stasiland is about people who resisted the surveillance state of East Germany, and about others who worked for the Stasi – the secret police of the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

Stasiland is written by Australian woman Anna Funder, who lived in Berlin in the late 90s and interviewed a variety of people from both sides of the GDR regime. She used classified ads to get in touch with former members of the Stasi, who she interviewed extensively. People such as those who helped to build and plan the erection of The Berlin Wall, a television presenter and host who was famous during the GDR regime, and a resistor who could have started WWIII!

I didn’t realise when I started this that it was not a fictional novel. I went into it thinking it was a novel about someone living in that time, but then shortly realised that it wasn’t!

I really enjoyed this book. It was really easy to digest and understand, even though I didn’t fully understand to begin with what the situation was after WWII in Germany. there was a map at the beginning of the book of both West & East Germany, and a smaller one of Berlin and the wall – this really helped me in reading and understanding this book.

I found that the theme of Stasiland reflected George Orwell’s 1984 which is scary! I can’t imagine living in a place that is so highly regulated. I know these places exist, but it sounds terrible!

I highly recommend this book. It’s short, interesting, captures attention quickly, and best of all, is TRUE!

Bits & pieces

  • Winner of the BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize
  • Stasiland is being developed for the stage by The National Theatre in London.

Past reviews

‘Anna Funder explores, in the most humane and sensitive way, lives blighted by the East German Stasi. She allows ex-Stasi operatives an equal chance to reflect on their achievements, and finds—to her dismay and ours—that they have learned nothing.’
— J. M. Coetzee

‘Your book STASILAND: TRUE STORIES FROM BEHIND THE BERLIN WALL struck me like no other in the last five years. It is fascinating, entertaining, hilarious, horrifying and very important.’
– Tom Hanks

‘Informed judgements and historical background are communicated with deceptive ease. Targeted at a broad audience, Stasiland is compelling reading.’
– 
Sydney Morning Herald

-H-

#4 Fall of Giants – Ken Follett

3 Dec

The Century Trilogy – Book 1 of 3

Fall of Giants - Front Cover

Fall of Giants – Front Cover

Goodreads rating: 4.14 (35,000+ ratings)

My rating: 9/10

Why it’s on the list: About  5 or so months ago I was looking for book recommendations (Around the same time I started The List), and a good friend of mine recommended it to me. When she first sent me the synopsis I said no straight away, because it sounded long, rambling and boring. But once I saw another summary I decided to read it, and I’m so glad I did.

First published: September 28th, 2010 by Pan Macmillan

Genre: Historical Fiction, Epic

Fall of Giants follows five interrelated families from America, Germany, Russia, Wales & England and is set between 1911 and 1924, and covers huge events including WWI, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage. It is full of love, scandalous sex, betrayal, war, loss, hatred, family ties, loyalty (both to family and country) and aristocracy.

When I first bought this book, I couldn’t believe how HUGE it seemed. But thankfully, it’s broken up into chapters that have small ‘mini-chapters’ within it, which makes it much easier to tackle. The story is so easy to get lost in, and the great thing about it is that you can totally relate to the people and their stories, even though it was set almost 100 years ago.

Cast of Characters - Fall of Giants

Cast of Characters – Fall of Giants

I found myself much more interested in the fate of the English, Welsh and Russian families than the German or the American, however they really are all interrelated and woven within each other that you can’t have one family’s story without the rest of them. Although the chapters jumped from one country to another, it was really easy to keep track of the families thanks to the handy index at the beginning, listing all the families, their acquaintances, and real historical figures from the time, as you can see in the photo to the left.

Every night when I’d read in bed, I felt like I was losing myself in a totally different world, and once I’d finished the book I felt like I was saying goodbye to old friends. I think whenever you feel like you’re going to miss a book and its characters, you’ve found a gem.

Bits & pieces

  • Fall of Giants was checked by eight historians. [Source]

-H-

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