Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Number the Stars

A few nights ago I finished reading Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. This is only the second book I have read by Lois Lowry, the first being The Giver.
For a children's book I would say that it would be pretty interesting and exciting, however, as an adult, it seemed very shallow and watered-down. I've been reading a lot of world war 2, and holocaust books lately, and this one just didn't seem to contain anything of any real significance.
The plot was pretty good, and the characters were good, but there just seemed to be a lot of stuff that was shallow or underdeveloped. The first being the stereotypical Nazis. All of the soldiers seemed to be these overbearing, rude, tyrannical grunts, who took pleasure in making everyone's lives more difficult. I don't get this feeling from the other books I have read. Like most soldiers in the world, I suspect they were mostly young men from German homes and families, out doing their duty for their country. I doubt so many of them were blatant bullies.
There were also a few plot elements which seemed thrown in for convenience without any development. The idea of getting Jews to safety in Sweden because "for reasons of their own, the Nazis want Sweden to remain free," and then adding, "it is very complicated." It seemed very sloppy to give an undeveloped explanation for why getting the Jews to Sweden would make everything better. A kind of deus ex machina to suddenly solve all problems with as little explanation as possible. It just seems contrived to me.
The other problem I had with the story, and it isn't really a problem so much as a personal disappointment, was that the story of Peter and Lise wasn't emphasized nearly enough. Peter was the most complex character in the story, and his relationship with Lise was by far the most complex plot element. We didn't really get any details about their situation until the very end of the book, and, for me, it was the most powerful part. I think it would have been a much more compelling story had Peter and Lise been the focus.
Overall it is a good read, but probably not one that becomes more meaningful as an adult. If you read it as a child and liked it, I would suggest leaving it at that.


Chess said...

Well, Robby, it is a book geared towards children, and it's written from the point of view of a very young girl. I must say this was one of my favorites when I was a kid. It makes sense to me that explanations would seem underdeveloped and shallow to you because you are an adult. But for the purpose of the book, I think the underdevelopment stays true to the innocence of childhood because you simply cannot explain the deep, complicated reasons for war and the twistedness of humanity to someone who is so young. It's a good example of the structure reflecting the content of the book, and I personally think it was a good stylistic choice. But that's the lit major in me. :-)

Emmy said...

I've read a couple of Holocaust themed books, but I find them rather depressing. I know you've already read The Book Thief, so I guess I would also suggest The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and I've heard good things about (but never actually read) Man's Search for Meaning.

Robin said...

I remember really liking this book in elementary school, I know I read it several times back then. Sounds like I better not reread it!

Robby Spratt said...

Keep in mind that I never read it as a child, so my review was purely from an adult point of view. I suppose if you really liked it as a kid, you might still like it due to the nostalgia factor. As I said, it's a good kids book, but for adults it lacks depth. It's still a good book though. :)