I read The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass's most well-known novel, when I was 16, and I've read it twice since then. It's an unusual novel to read as a teen, since some of its high-terrain concepts of wartime trauma and fractured relationships might not be the usual fodder for teen reading. But as a book nerd, I was all about experimenting with novels both challenging and intellectually nourishing.
What I always loved about The Tin Drum was its coming-of-age story, tracking the story of young Oskar, born in 1924 in Poland and steadfastly refusing to grow up. With a hint of Peter Pan in the opening passage, Oskar desires to retain his youthful stature so much he flings himself down the basement steps and is stunted in his growth, forever being his prepubescent height as his mind matures. I'm not sure why, but this premise hooked me.
Oskar also had a voice that could shatter glass...literally. Such magic realism, which Salman Rushdie later popularized, was a revelation to me. Wait, you can blend fantasy into an otherwise historical novel?!
Grass's writing is so damn compelling, I always recommend this novel to friends looking for a great read. It's a thick read, sure, but like any worthwhile books, Grass expertly develops Oskar and other characters with such detail and humanity, the writing keeps you engaged til the last page.
I don't want to reveal much more, lest I spoil some of The Tin Drum's best passages, but rest assured this book is worth your time and attention. In fact, I now have an itch to re-read it once again.
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