"[I] keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would like to be, and what I could be, if…there weren’t any other people living in the world.” – Anne Frank
I’m quite certain that anyone who has ever read The Diary of Anne Frank, will never forget Anne. Her diary is a testament of the ravages of war and the determination to survive under the worst of conditions. I bring this up because August 1 was the 65th anniversary of the date of the last entry in her diary—the above quote.
Also, I recently finished reading another book that brought to mind Anne Frank. It was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Unlike The Diary of Anne Frank, The Book Thief is fiction. However, it is based on stories the author heard when he was a child. According to Zusak’s web site:
“When I was growing up, I heard stories at home about Munich and Vienna in war-time, when my parents were children. Two stories my mother told me affected me a lot. The first was about Munich being bombed, and how the sky was on fire, how everything was red. The second was about something else she saw...
One day, there was a terrible noise coming from the main street of town, and when she ran to see it, she saw that Jewish people were being marched to Dachau, the concentration camp. At the back of the line, there was an old man, totally emaciated, who couldn't keep up. When a teenage boy saw this, he ran inside and brought the man a piece of bread. The man fell to his knees and kissed the boy's ankles and thanked him . . . Soon, a soldier noticed and walked over. He tore the bread from the man's hands and whipped him for taking it. Then he chased the boy and whipped him for giving him the bread in the first place. In one moment, there was great kindness and great cruelty, and I saw it as the perfect story of how humans are.”
What is unique about The Book Thief is the narrator is Death. Zusak actually succeeds in making Death a likeable character who is only trying to do his job the best he can under such horrendous conditions. I admit, I’ll always think about Death differently from now on. Death, like everyone who reads the book, is drawn to Liesel, the nine-year-old book thief. Her foster parents, Rudy, Max and the Mayor’s wife are also remarkable characters.
With the nightly news report enough to depress Pollyanna herself, why would I want to read a depressing book about war and death? It came highly recommended by my sister and daughter, whose opinions I trust. They didn’t let me down.
Though sad, it was also heartwarming. Like The Diary of Anne Frank, it shows how resilient people can be; how small things can bring such joy; how a tiny kindness can have a huge effect; how words can be used for good and evil; and, how people find a way of becoming what they would like to be… against all odds.
I am in awe of authors who can bring characters to life so vividly that they remain with us long after the story has faded. What characters have stayed crystal-clear in your mind long after reading the book they appeared in?
Thanks for stopping by.