Thursday, 23 October 2014

Laurent Binet - 'HHhH' & Markus Zusak - 'The Book Thief'

I thought I'd mention a couple of WWII books I've read recently. They're both interesting in the point of view they take, which gives an intriguing twist to the stories. I also felt like they had a theme in common; that of the task of writing and the power of words.

Ever since going to Berlin I've been really interested in learning more about the Second World War, particularly due to my interests in psychology. I remembered seeing this book when it came out and picked it up after finishing some of my exams a while ago.

HHhH depicts the events surrounding Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of the high-ranking Nazi Reinhard Heydrich in 1942 carried out by Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, two paratroopers from Czechoslovakia. The book explores the lives of the people involved and surrounding events, including Heydrich's role as part of the SS and the development of the assassination plan, from Britain to Prague. 

As well as giving an insight into these events to those unfamiliar with the specifics (such as myself), the book is also written in a style which sees the author switch between describing the history itself and his own journey to discovering this story, including his thoughts on trying to be faithful to the actual events that occurred. The observations on the actual process behind writing a book were fascinating to explore, particularly the difficulties of trying to writing a historical accurate scene. 

Overall, this is an entertaining account of the events and their circumstances, and it really got me thinking about the paratroopers actions in relation to current events. But I'd get a bit rambly if I went into all that, I think. 

The Book Thief, by comparison to HHhH, is fictional but uses the war as the backdrop for the story. The story is narrated by Death, and tells of a young German girl who goes to live with foster parents. Throughout she deals with the loss of her family, the struggle of learning to read, the development of a close relationship with her foster father, hiding a Jew in the family basement, along with the normal activities of a child: namely, trying to win at football with her best friend. 

She also steals books; these act as the initial challenges to conquer whilst learning to read, and become a way she can connect with those around her, especially when the war begins to hit its stride. 

I really enjoyed this book and the way it views the war through innocent eyes, alongside the other dramas of growing up and building relationships. Its sweet, sad and overall an enchanting read and I seriously recommend giving this book a go. 

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