two great reads: 'the book thief' and 'eleanor & park'


Re-reading a book after a time- lapse is like diving into a familiar yet irrevocably altered world. And it's all about changing perspectives and never stepping into the same river twice (thanks Heraclitus) or in this case, book.

I'm re-reading two books at present, Markus Zusak's 'The Book Thief' and Rainbow Rowell's 'Eleanor & Park'. Despite winning the Printz Award for excellence in YA literature, I don't relate to Zusak's book as YA. It's a cross-over, one of these layered, generous, enlightening stories set in World War II, and while I'm not going to debate the whole pigeon-holing of how books are marketed, this is the kind of book I love, because it defies a narrow categorisation based on a potential audience. Kind of like 'To Kill A Mockingbird' which today would probably have been stuck in the YA genre despite its universal appeal. 

Back to the book - the first time I read it I was hesitant about the voice of Death. It was a jarring note in a story I otherwise loved. Reaping souls between this world and the next, disconnected yet participatory, observing with an altered perception of sensation; it felt a little contrived despite the malleable inventiveness of Zusak's language. Happily, this time round, it hooked me in from the start. And what a great start! From the Prologue:

'It's just a small story really, about amongst other things:

  • a girl
  • some words
  • an accordionist
  • some fanatical Germans
  • a Jewish fist-fighter
  • and quite a lot of thievery

I saw the book thief three times.'

A love of words and books, the precariousness of life, the treachery of death, the ethical dilemmas and threat of living under fascism, fighting for what you love and learning to see through difference to appreciate our shared humanity - this and much more could be added to the list above. Not quite a 'small' story!


'Eleanor & Park' won my heart from the first read.

I had a book crush. Still do. Rainbow Rowell's story of first love grabbed me from page one and didn't let go. A story of two quirky, passionate individuals, each with their own baggage, who despite a rocky start, truly see each other and make the leap across differences to share something special. It's love - real, big, scary, complicated, simple, vulnerable, strong and the not-going-away-despite-crap-happening kind of love. It's a love story - not simply a 'first love' story - with all the bite, humour, sweetness, resolve and ache that makes this book a go-to read when I want to be reminded of what the heart is capable of.