The Book Thief…

3 of 5 stars
bookshelves: alondra-recommends, historical-fiction, to-read-2014, library, new-zealand

Read from November 05 to 23, 2014

“It’s just a small story really, about, among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery..

I remember seeing The Book Thief around 2006, or thereabouts, and my curiosity began to grow. But for one reason or another, I never got around to reading it. In hindsight, I kind of wish I had. The years lapsed, and I’d recollect it at random. Then a couple of years ago, I kept hearing about it here, and several Goodreads friends even recommended it, with never a negative thing to say. Only recently have I seen its mixed reviews.

It’s no secret that Markus Zusak writes well, and the unique word choice on full display here is astounding. It’s also visually stunning, the way he uses various textures and colors to describe his characters, surroundings, etc.. Not only that, but these little details aren’t simply there to beautify the story, or swoon the reader in some way, positive or negative. Nothing felt contrived to me. Everything serves a purpose.

Zusak’s characters are fairly well developed, too, particularly Liesel. I especially enjoyed her progression towards the end of the novel. It’s a very different side of her, and it felt completely believable and honest. Her best friend, Rudy, along with Papa, Rosa, Max and even the Mayor’s wife and Nazi supporter, Ilsa Herman, stand out in ways I never would have anticipated.
Then, of course, there’s the novel’s clever narrator, Death. I love him because Zusak took the time to explore his character and truly got to know him. As Death is portrayed here, he isn’t one-dimensional, there are personality traits that set him apart, aside from his self-explanatory name, or job description. He shares a connection with Liesel which I found fascinating, and kept things interesting. What struck me most is the fact that though his actions are certainly cold- blooded, callused and calculating, he actually has a heart. It’s Death, with a conscious.

Up to the middle section, I was still enjoying the story, fully appreciating said developments, but at the same time, I couldn’t help wondering just where this was going. And it didn’t really progress until the tail section. The center bored me, it’s basically a lot of fluff, filler. I think it could have, perhaps even should have, been summarized (emphasizing the tedium, joy and innocence of childhood, of course) by a good 200 pages.

The roller coaster of emotions peppered throughout, and especially in its phenomenal denouement, made an ultimately satisfying and redeeming story. I was left deeply saddened and simultaneously uplifted, and my desire to know more about the rest of Liesel’s childhood lingers, still.
We see her as an elderly adult, and I think it’s a testament to Zusak’s sheer writing ability that he instilled in me the need to know just how deeply her childhood experiences impacted her. I like to think that she’s a better, stronger, person because of them.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, eh?

The one element that truly won me over, that fully engaged my interest, was-without a doubt– the power the written word can have on the us all. This is probably the strongest theme, as you see it again and again, to the very end. And beyond. I mean, Liesel was such an impressionable and naive little girl, it took her Papa’s love, an intrinsic curiosity and rebellious nature, and Max (amongst others) to finally set her free. This is a beautiful story, one I won’t forget any time soon, and I don’t regret reading it.



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