For some cosmically inscrutable reason, everything I read and watch now seems to be about war, and (even more specifically) about the second World War. I am in the midst of two books, as well as creeping along in the immense but less belligerent "Martin Chuzzlewit": Markus Zuzak's "The Book Thief" (set in Nazi Germany) and Irene Nemirovsky's "Suite Francaise" (Occupied France). On top of all this, I am watching "Grave of the Fireflies," an anime account of the bombing of Japan that is so immensely depressing that I have to watch it in two shifts, unable to bear the grinding unfairness of the plot for more than an hour at a time. "Suite Francaise" is proving to be lyrical and engrossing - a beautiful fabric woven of the mundane details of many lives. I am troubled, however, by my rather tepid initial reaction to "The Book Thief" (I am on page 173). The reviews I have read on LibraryThing and in various blogs have been glowing to an almost religious degree: readers don't just enjoy the book, they are converted, born-again Zusakians. Many people have sat down with it and refused to get up until they reach the very last page; others declared it to be the best book of last year. Thus far, I have found it inventive, but sometimes awkwardly so - so conscious of its own quirkiness that it trips over its own linguistic complexity. Here's hoping it wins me over in the next 375 pages!

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