Book: The Book Thief

The book: The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

The edition: Knopf/Random House paperback, 552 pages, plus readers’ guide and author interview

The story: a teenage girl in Nazi Germany during World War II, Liesel Memminger can hardly read, but she develops a love and crave for books due to several random facts. Her stealing books (either from book burning stakes or from houses) is only part of a life that goes through the tragedy of war, which is nothing more than a setting for her everyday life.

My experience with the book & my thoughts: all in all, I enjoyed this book more than most of the other ones I read this year. The story is compelling, and its characters lovable. So: although I got distracted by the snippets of commentary on every page; although I feel that Liesel and Rudy were represented as younger than their stated age (at 14 you were adult, back then; I cannot believe they would get away with all they did if they were already teenagers); although I felt it was very partial to “the good Germans” and forgets all the other people that suffered in that war; still, I can say this was a very good read.

The part with spoilers: I felt let down by the ending, all the characters disappearing at once… Didn’t feel right to me.

What I liked: characters. I quite liked almost all of them, even those that only made a cameo appearance.

What I didn’t like: Death as a narrator. To me, either Death knows the story of each and everyone of us, or he doesn’t. That he would be interested in Liesel and not, say, in her mother… it’s not a nice thought for me.

Language & writing: a simple and straightforward style, not much to say about it… except that I hated all the snippets inserted here and there. I don’t like when an author uses typographical tricks to keep the reader interested. Also, I appreciated all the German expressions, but I wonder at how that was perceived by readers who have no knowledge of German.

In the author’s own words: although this is not a book for quotes, here is one I’d like to share (remember, it’s Death who’s talking):

It was a year for the ages, like 79, like 1346, to name just a few. Forget the scythe, damn it, I needed a broom or a mop. And I needed a vacation.
[…]
In all honesty (and I know I’m complaining excessively now), I was still getting over Stalin, in Russia. The so-called second revolution – the murder of his own people.
Then came Hitler.
They say war is death’s best friend, but I must offer you a different point of view on that one. To me, war is like the new boss who expects the impossible. He stands over your shoulder repeating one thing, incessantly. ‘Get it done, get it done’. So you work harder, You get the job done, The boss, however, does not thank you. He asks for more.

Links to better understand this book:

Random question: why is Death perceived as male in English-speaking countries? And as female in Southern, Romance-language ones?

Read this if: if you are looking for a different take on World War 2.

Counts as: Global Reading Challenge – Oceania

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2 comments on “Book: The Book Thief

  1. I’ve heard so much about this book. I think I will end up reading it sooner or later. But Death as a narrator doesn’t appeal to me either.

  2. Death as a narrator is not as bad as it sounds, because of the way it is done (a sympathetic Death, if one could say so). What didn’t work for me is that Death was not impartial, did not treat everyone in the same way.

Ditelo con parole vostre/Let your words be heard

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