book burning

The latest two books I have read include accounts of book burning during the Nazi regime. I didn’t choose them for that subject; it just happened that way.  Both books are excellent and I recommend them both.

The first book is “Children and Fire” by Ursula Hegi (who also wrote “Stones from the River”), Scribner 2011. It is about a teacher and her students, her past and her worries about the rising Nazi party. The story hops from past to present at first so keep with it and the storylines sort themselves out.  The portrayal of Thekla, a teacher worried for her students in this spying society but wanting them to learn how to think for themselves, is subtle and emotional. The author does not tackle any subject head on, neither does Thekla. Instead the approach is sideways. In this, the book closely resembles real life. I would call this a must read.

Here is the description of the book burning episode.

“Where they burn books, they will ultimately also burn people.”

“Flames tore into the spines of the books, into their soft centers. People were taking off their hats and kerchiefs. Their heads were bare as they sang: “Nun danket alle Gott—now let us all thank God.”

A haze shivered around the flames and smoke, like a second breath, and Thekla wondered if standing here meant she was one of these people. “

Let me know if you do read the book. Here is a link to another review if you want to read more. http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ursula-hegi/children-and-fire/#review

The second novel which also includes a book burning episode is “The Book Thief”, Markus Zusak, Alfred A. Knopf 2005. It is set in Nazi Germany and is written from the point of view of: Death. The narrative is interspersed with comments from Death, such as this one;

“I withdrew, and with so much work ahead of me, it was nice to be fought off in that dark, little room. I even managed a short, closed-eye pause of serenity before I made my way out.”

We, as the reader, and Death, as the narrator, follow Liesel , a young girl who is given into foster care by her mother, as she learns to read and survive in a new city, new family and during the ugliness of war. She learns to read and becomes a book thief, stealing books from a local family’s library by crawling in through the window.

“She was home, among the mayor’s books of every color and description, with their silver and gold lettering. She could smell the pages. She could almost taste the words as they stacked up around her. …As we’re both aware, she’d stolen books previously, but in late October 1941, it became official. That night, Liesel  Meminger truly became the book thief.”

Here’s a link to a summary from Goodreads.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19063.The_Book_Thief

These are not speedy reads. Choose your timing.