Getting the Girl, Markus Zusak (another unreviewy review)

Sheesh, I read this right after Fighting Ruben Wolfe and then completely forgot to review this.  It’s because so many new things are happening.  I’m not just making an excuse.  There are a lot of things going on in my life at the moment.  For instance:

1. New job
2. New commitment to regular writing schedule
3. New phone and laptop
4. New record player
5. Loads and loads of new records – some purchased, some given to me by kind aunt and uncle – and the discovery of a wondrous record store in town
6. New addiction to Jodi Picoult
7. Renewed addiction to cross-stitching
8. Renewed addiction to Gilmore Girls (differing from my previous addictions in that it encompasses the latter four seasons, rather than the first three)

All of these things are time-consuming, particularly the addictions.  I am beginning to suspect that I have an addictive personality.  I get into these manias and I can’t escape until they shake me loose.  The cross-stitching while watching Gilmore Girls thing is just getting started, but it is gaining momentum rapidly.  Plus I am writing for two hours in the morning and then working nine hours after that (I mean eight really, with a break for lunch, but I am out and about all that time), so I have a long and tiring day, and by the end of it I just want to do something soothing and mindless, like read Jodi Picoult or watch Gilmore Girls.  My mum keeps insisting I can’t possibly read Jodi Picoult’s books without thinking about the issues raised in them, but it turns out that I really, really can.  I am willing to entertain the notion that I am just turning off my brain as soon as I leave work, and that’s why I have thought no deep thoughts about Jodi Picoult.

Well, in any case.  (Obviously all this business has given me ADD and I can’t focus on anything.  Oo, and what else is new too also is that it’s fall, and all the fall TV shows have come on, and I enjoy to cross-stitch while watching (on successive days) Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill (Monday is guilty pleasure day), House, Pushing Daisies, and The Office.)  In any case, Getting the Girl was again very good.  Of course.  Markus Zusak is always good.  Of course his other books (other = books not The Book Thief) are less amazing than The Book Thief, but the four I’ve read have all been quite excellent.  At times I thought Getting the Girl was a trifle disingenuous, but overall, I liked it a lot.  So far I have yet to read a book by Markus Zusak without getting choked up and teary-eyed (though of course with The Book Thief I cried many, many tears).

Fighting Ruben Wolfe, Markus Zusak

I read this because I bought Getting the Girl, and then it turned out that Getting the Girl was a sequel to Fighting Ruben Wolfe.  I haven’t liked reading things out of order since I was a young lass reading Patricia C. Wrede’s Dragons books.  I read Talking to Dragons first and found it totally confusing, and after that I resolved to read things properly and in order thereafter.  (The one exception being the Chronicles of Narnia.  I can see a person being just as happy reading those books in the order they were written, which would give them the joyous good fortune of reading The Horse and His Boy rather late in the game.  Also The Magician’s Nephew – it is my fourth favorite, but it clusters high up with the four best ones, rather than down a bit lower with Prince Caspian, The Terrifying Silver Chair, and The Last Battle.  I like Uncle Andrew.

Er, anyway.  Fighting Ruben Wolfe is all about two brothers, Ruben and Cameron, whose father has lost his job, and their whole family is trying really hard to keep its head above water.  And Ruben and Cameron – ostensibly to get some extra money for themselves – get involved doing fights for money.  Ruben always wins, and Cameron often loses.

In fact I wasn’t expecting to like this book much.  People’s first novels are sometimes not very good, and this was Markus Zusak’s first novel.  Furthermore I have only sisters and am greatly averse to pain, so I was thinking that I would be unable to identify with anything here.  But actually it was quite moving.  I didn’t cry at the end – not like when I read The Book Thief and weep helplessly every time – but I got pretty teary-eyed and sniffly.  They fight their circumstances!  They stick together and are brothers!  It’s very uplifting.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

Seven.

You roll and watch it coming, realizing completely that this is no regular die.  You claim it to be bad luck, but you’ve known all along that it had to come.  You brought it into the room.  The table could smell it on your breath.  The Jew was sticking out of your pocket from the outset.  He’s smeared to your lapel, and the moment you roll, you know it’s a seven – the one thing that somehow finds a way to hurt you.  It lands.  It stares you in each eye, miraculous and loathsome, and you turn away with it feeding on your chest.

Just bad luck.

That’s what you say.

Of no consequence.

That’s what you make yourself believe – because deep down, you know that this small piece of changing fortune is a signal of things to come.  You hide a Jew.  You pay.  Somehow or other, you must.

I saw The Book Thief first when I was in England, staying in London with my family over New Year’s, and I couldn’t decide whether I wanted it or not (I wish I’d bought it then because it would have been more expensive BUT it had a nice cover and was hardback), so I picked it up and glanced at it, and something the sales person said led me to believe it was in translation.  So since I didn’t really have any spare money for a book that might not be good and was in translation anyway, and since I definitely didn’t have any spare space in my luggage, I didn’t get it.

What with one thing and another I checked it out of the library this past summer and read it almost all in one go, lying on my couch at home.  It made me cry.  So I didn’t read it again, and I didn’t buy it, and by the time I noticed that I was pining for it, it was too late and the Official Christmas Buying Embargo was on, and when I didn’t get it for Christmas (I got many other things though!), I went round to Bongs & Noodles and bought it with my Christmas gift card money.

(Yay!)

Seriously, honestly, this book is as good as you’ve heard.  It is one of the best books I have ever read.  Markus Zusak, yay for you.  It’s about a little German girl who steals books and has a foster family and hides a Jew in her basement.  And yes, okay, the book is narrated by Death, and I know that might not be a draw for some people, but this book is just gorgeously written, and it’s extremely moving, and I wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true.

But sad.  So if you have serious objections to bits of story that involve dead children and mums crying about it, and if those objections are serious enough that you actually cannot see past them, then okay, this book might not be for you.  For everyone else in the whole world though.  Yup.  Damn good book.  It made me cry, and although I tear up extremely easily, it is a much better trick to make actual tears actually fall out of my eyes, which is what The Book Thief has done both times I’ve read it.

Although I ordinarily cannot deal with Holocaust books at all, which I know this officially isn’t one of, but it kind of is.  And still I liked The Book Thief a lot.