Book Review- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

“As writers do, I begin every book knowing it will mean something to me, but with The Book Thief  I’ve been very fortunate. It’s the book that means everything to me.” – Marcus Zusak

***THE BOOK THIEF***

an attempt to review

 in which the setting is Munich, Germany, WW2:

 The  format- like this- a bit pretentious- but enticing

 The narrator is Death- color lover- not fond of full sentences

I dislike being told what to read or watch- or what to not read or watch. I’m rebellious like that. So, I put off reading The Book Thief  on mere principal. Pretty stupid. But, as Death would tell you, people are sometimes stupid. And sometimes not. We are mesmerizing and juxtaposing, us humans.

There are many, many stories written in the setting of Holocaust-era Europe. They are all heavy and disturbing- and rightly so. Some are interposed with laughter and fun, but not often, and not for long. I assumed I knew what this book would be like. I was right (enough to justify my reluctance), but also wrong. There were things that made this book surprise me…and things that frustrated me. Being frustrated does not mean that I thought it was “bad” -sometimes being frustrated is good- and others may not feel the same. But this is my review…

***Surprise***

I thought this book would be heavy and depressing in a covert way- with the darkness coming in at the bitter end. Turns out, the darkness is there from the start, with small halos of light throughout.

The narrator, Death, and his (its?) fetish with colors, was an interesting literary device. This odd characteristic twisted my expectations. But Death describing colors does not make him appear sympathetic. He(it) is drawn to color because of the contrast. Death has no color. Considering the heaviness that is expected, I appreciated this overtly dark perspective. Why pretend there’s any other end? We will all die. (spoiler alert)

***Frustration***

The character of Death was often portrayed in confusing and conflicting ways. Death seems to watch from afar, detached from humanity, and yet, in a few paragraphs, Death is close, personal, quirky, and disturbingly human. It calls itself the Grim Reaper at one point, and though it sometimes broaches the human feeling of regret, it never quite crosses the line.

For some reason, unknown even to Death, it has taken a special interest in Leisel, the book thief. I suppose it’s because she’s the protagonist of the story, but it doesn’t feel organic. The whole “character” of death is plain confusing. Maybe that’s the point. I don’t know. I am probably projecting my own personal bias towards this character and am frustrated by the author not mirroring my own spiritual views on death. Perhaps I am taking it all too literally, and not literately.

***Surprise***

Some beautiful philosophical lines. Death is a brilliant observer.

***Frustration***

Constant interruptions. Death is a verbose interloper.

I respect this book. I enjoyed the challenge of reading it- even with the frustration. Markus Zusak should be proud of his accomplishment here. He has a vivid, live imagination that has transformed into print well. If I had found this book on my own, I would be singing its praises up and down the streets. But, as a New York Times bestseller, my tiny voice chirps unnecessarily. I wish I hadn’t had to fight against my own presuppositions in order to begin it. Do not make my mistake.

There are some beautiful word dances in The Book Thief. Also, the story is innocent yet guilt-filled; beautiful yet tragic. This is not the usual Holocaust-setting-type-novel. Along with the interesting perspective by the narrator, Death, there is the rare perspective of a young German girl living everyday life in a homeland Americans in 2014 have difficulty finding a connection to without a writer like Zusak, who has taken the time to breathe life into the familial testimonies he heard as a child and created a book that means everything to him.

***A LAST NOTE FROM YOUR NARRATOR ***

I am haunted by humans.

Find The Book Thief and other Markus Zusak books on Amazon

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Read more reviews at Goodreads.

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10 thoughts on “Book Review- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

  1. This is one of my favorite books ever. So good, and I’m pretty sure I cried. That being said, if you haven’t read his book “I Am the Messenger”, I would highly recommend it. I think I liked it even more than “The Book Thief”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment! I read the sample to I am the Messenger that was at the end of The Book Thief and it was pretty enticing- but so different than what I had just finished that I will have to go back to it at a later date. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  2. Never, ever, ever be afraid of criticizing something a lot of people like. I myself love The Book Thief, but will admit it’s not perfect. Unanimous praise isn’t good for criticism and it isn’t good for the things being criticized. Here’s a very interesting article on that front, which uses the movie Boyhood (which was a film I didn’t like) as an example. http://blogs.indiewire.com/criticwire/why-the-unanimous-praise-for-boyhood-is-bad-for-film-criticism-and-for-boyhood-20140804

    Don’t be afraid to disagree! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the advice! I will admit, if I hadn’t spent good money on The Book Thief and had just borrowed it from the library, I may not have read past the first few pages. But I’m glad I did. It wasn’t perfect, but I don’t look for that. It was worth reading. I feel very similar about the Boyhood movie. It was painful, a bit slow, unimportant, and depressing, blah-blah-blah, but I couldn’t help respecting the effort and reality expressed. Life isn’t simply problem-conflict-resolution. And it doesn’t always need to be shown that way. Did I like Boyhood? Mmm…I didn’t hate it. I do think it was worth the watch.

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  3. I loathed the style-y way the book was written and gave up on it after 10 pages, but I’m glad I read your review. Now I feel like I understand why the book was so beloved, even if I’m not inclined to give it a second chance.

    Liked by 1 person

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