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July 1, 2015 – Notes

 In attendance: Liz Clarke, Vivian Krone, Janice Loschiavo, Lois Pagnozzi, Meta Pitrelli, Cathy Quinn, Sharon Rome, Donna Sabetta, Tina Segali, Marilyn Sinisi, Jeri Stangl, Joan Swensen.

Absent: Barbara Santillo (in Virginia!)

Book & Author: The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.

Having promised Barbara that she would talk about the book, Donna opened the discussion by saying that she had seen the movie before she read the book and had found it utterly charming. She explained that it is available on demand and recommends it to all. The book was published in the Young Adult category and, indeed, Donna’s daughter Angela had read it in fifth grade.

Questions and Comments regarding The Book Thief:

  • One of the reasons for Zusak’s writing the book is that his parents were always telling stories; this in turn gave him the idea of writing (though having Death as the narrator was surely his own).
  • Max is the only Jew in the book but his story isn’t as important as the others’.
  • Rudy and Liesel were the favorites of the group.
  • Was the author telling his mother’s story? Liesel dies in Australia and the author is Australian.
  • The book is the story of children in war. They’re caught up in it, they have to respond, whatever the situation. They somehow find a way to survive.
  • An interesting aspect of the book is how the war machine affected a typical household. Taking Max in was not only a courageous act because Max was Jewish, but also because he was another mouth to feed when there was little to go around. Rosa takes in laundry from wealthy families for extra money.
  • The fact that Max was aided was contrasted to the situation of the boys in What is the What who so desperately needed rescue but were not helped by anyone.
  • It was never clearly explained why Rosa and Hans took Liesel in, though some in the group suggested that they did it for the stipend. Liesel was placed in the Hubermann’s home by the state, which is why she hated Hitler so much.
  • It wasn’t clear if Hans was a Communist or not. But he was definitely a contented man who did the right thing.
  • Those in the group with German backgrounds discussed their relatives’ journey to this country. Lois’ grandfather saw what was coming in Germany – his brother had come earlier to the Palisade Park area in the 20s. Jeri’s dad had come through Hoboken; her Uncle Carl fought for the US in WWII but his father had fought for Germany in WWI. Marilyn’s grandfather came but somehow ended up in Kansas.
  • The children were without fear; they didn’t fear even going in the mayor’s house. They ran around, taking small objects, much as any child in the world, although seeing a child break into a home to steal a book is remarkable.
  • The issue of persecution worldwide was discussed, and the acknowledgement or lack of it, by the perpetrators. The Germans acknowledged what happened during the Holocaust; the Japanese didn’t own up to their atrocities. Has the US atoned for the Native American genocide or slavery?
  • The book is based on how words help us to get through life; there is a lot of sweetness in the book.

The book earned a 3.0 rating (though it was reported that Barbara’s rating was a 2.5). The recollection is that the rating was determined while everyone was enjoying Sharon’s chocolate chocolate cake, Cathy’s soda bread, and Marilyn’s birthday cake (Happy birthday, Joan!).

Next Meeting: Wednesday, August 5, 5:00 p.m., at Joan’s house. The book chosen by Janice is Sons and Lovers, by D. H. Lawrence. The book placed ninth on The Modern Library’s list of the 100 best books of the 20th century.

Food assignments for August meeting: Tina and Liz, dessert; Vivian, salad; Meta, fruit.

Donna and Jeri could not confirm that they would make any further meetings. They expressed interest in receiving notes from the meetings.

If you finish Sons and Lovers early, you might want to start Lois’ selection for September, The Dream Lover, by Elizabeth Berg, based on the life of novelist George Sand. For October, Meta is considering Americanah, The Light Between Oceans and Go Set a Watchman.

Submitted by Tina Segali

July 5, 2015

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