A love affair with life… and the occasional interest

Coming of Age

The Book Thief

Last night I finished what could be my favorite book if not for Andre Aciman’s heart wrenching “Call me by your name” .  The Book Thief stole  a couple of days of my life but I can’t  even say I would ever regret it. Narrated by Death, literally, it focuses on the life of  Liesel Memimger a young German girl who is adopted by a sympathetic family in the outskirts of Munich at the start of Hitler’s power. She develops a fascination with words and books at a time when they would be used to place fear and hate in the German nation. Before she can even read she picks up a book from the snow at the funeral of her younger brother who did not survive the trip to her new home. At first hesitant of her new family she learns to accept them.  Her loving accordion playing foster-father Hans teaches her how to read after discovering the stolen book and her stern mother Rosa keeps her grounded and well-behaved. Liesel, at first troubled by her scholastic shortcomings, inevitably begins a life of thievery not just for books but for the little bits of happiness that life stows away hidden during the war. Though the Book Thief’s comings and goings, the lives of other characters provide the backdrop for the moments that will impact in her life.

Han’s a WWI veteran owes his life to a Jew and makes a promise. A promise that reaches fruition when Max, the young Jewish son of Han’s savior arrives at his door asking them to risk all.

Max a young fist-fighter living freely, finds himself in peril after the German persecution.  Regrettably, he leaves his family and goes into hiding and develops a bond with the” Book Thief” that keeps him through the darkest days.

Rudy, a blond hair blue-eyed boy who idolizes the olympic track winner Jesse James, befriends Liesel but not for free. At first rivals at the local Himmel Street soccer games he goes out of his way to outdo her. He develops a strong bond with Liesel and never fails to find ways to ask her for a kiss. His carefree disposition, wholeheartedness,  and the place he holds as Liesel’s accomplice in crime inevitably wins me over and he is my favorite character in the book.

Death , inevitably, also plays a role. What we might view as a hateful and unregretful is the opposite. Death, it seems, is tired and weary of all the despair and disaster. He views each death in colors and keeps himself withdrawn so as to abstain from the pain heartbreak of those left behind, for he knows if he does he will not be able to cope. Death makes the ultimate exception with Liesel. Through his multiple encounters with the Book Thief, Death finds himself not only following her life but succumbing to the regret and loss of those left behind.


Call me by your name…

Andres Aciman’s first novel is one that took me away last summer. Away from boredom, from a depressing love life, and the dread of having for the first time in my life, summer college courses. I know what you’re thinking, though reading might not be number one on your to do lists I can assure you it was the best two weeks I spent fantasizing about living and falling in love in the Italian Riviera. Written in the most beautiful prose, the story is told in first person perspective about a boy, named Elio, who at 17 already seems wiser than his age. He spends 6 weeks falling into an uneasy but captivating attraction for a young scholar, Oliver, who is doing his post doctoral research at his parents’ house. Elio is at first apprehensive and sees Oliver as a competitor for attention and romantic interests in the small Italian village. While trying to gain Oliver as a friend, Elio is awakened to the fact that he is actually in a state of desire for the family guest. Although seemingly disturbed by his attraction, Elio knows deep inside he’d rather follow through with his desires than never take a chance.  In his struggles, he tries to find a way to open up but notices subtle mixed messages from Oliver that are confusing and threatening all in the same. At times Oliver calls on him to spend time either as his personal guide and tennis partner or accompanying him to town, and at others he puts him down in front of others and creates a rift between him and his friends. His maddening wish to have Oliver come into his room and fulfill a desire that is burning him from the core leaves him staying at home with Oliver just next door, even as his family leaves for the beach for the afternoon. Elio goes out of his way to try to win him over but is frustrated that Oliver seems to be unaffected and uninterested. At times Elio even wishes for his own death or that Oliver would die so as to extinguish a growing desire he knows is wrong. Eventually though, Elio finds the perfect moment to show his affection and expecting the worst, finds that Oliver too has been facing the same conflict. The tension felt by both characters in the next couple of days intensifies as Elio fears complete rejection from Oliver or even disgust, but  the story heats up with a passion I’ve yet to feel; one that maybe most of us wish for. Even as they find the ultimate way to realize their affection they know it’s not meant to last and find themselves wishing they had found each other earlier because know they really have just days to part. One last trip to Rome, where Oliver must depart for America, is a profound background for how to both cherish each winding moment but still find a way to let each other part.

I always find that most novels dealing with likewise themes seem to lack a unique sense of purpose and substance. This is one novel which I keep close to my heart and I hope many others choose to do the same. Although it deals with a gay coming of age theme many readers with different preconceptions will find a book, that once finished, will make you look twice at you own life. I encourage you to at least read the Amazon.com reviews and see for yourself, this book is truly a treasure worth reading.


Call me by your name…

Andres Aciman’s first novel is one that took me away last summer. Away from boredom, from a depressing love life, and the dread of having for the first time in my life, summer college courses. I know what your thinking, though reading might not be number one on your to do lists I can assure you it was the best two weeks I spent fantasizing about living and falling in love in the Italian Riviera. The story is told in first person perspective about a boy, named Elio, who at 17 already seems wiser than his age. He spends 6 weeks falling into an uneasy but captivating attraction for a young scholar, Oliver, who is doing his post doctoral research at his parents house. Elio is at first apprehensive and sees Oliver as a competitor for attention and romantic interests in the small Italian village. While at first he sees Oliver as a friend, Elio is awakened to the fact that he is actually in a state of desire for the family visitor. Although seemingly disturbed by his attraction, Elio knows deep inside he’d rather follow through with his desires than never take a chance.  In his struggles he tries to find a way to open up but notices Oliver gives mixed messages. At times calling on him to spend time either as his personal guide and tennis partner or accompanying him to town, but sometimes putting him down in front of others. His maddening desire to have Oliver come into his room and fullfill a desire that is burning him from the core leaves him staying at home, with Oliver just next door, even as his family leaves for the beach. Elio goes out of his way to try and win him over but is frustrated that Oliver seems to be unaffected and uninterested. At times Elio even wishes for his own death or that Oliver would die so as to extinguish a growing desire he knows is wrong. Eventually though, Elio finds the perfect moment to show his affection and expecting the worst, finds that Oliver too has been facing the same conflict. The tension felt by both characters in the next couple of days intensifies as Elio fears complete rejection from Oliver or even disgust, but  the story heats up with a passion I’ve yet to feel; one that maybe most of us wish for. Even as they find the ultimate way to realize their affection they know it’s not meant to last and find themselves wishing they had found each other earlier because know they really have just days to part. One last trip to Rome, where Oliver must depart for America, is a profound background for how to both cherish each winding moment but still find a way to let each other part.

I always find that most novels dealing with likewise themes seem to lack a unique sense of purpose and substance. This is one novel which I keep close to my heart and I hope many others choose to do the same. Although it deals with a gay coming of age theme many readers with different preconceptions will find a book, that once finished, will make you look twice at you own life. I encourage you to at least read the Amazon.com reviews and see for yourself, this book is truly a treasure worth reading.