893136

Book Review: The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

This review is part of Stacie and Maia’s Random Reads
#RandomReads

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Publisher: Black Swan
Pages: 560
Release Date: September 2005
Summary (From Goodreads):

HERE IS A SMALL FACT – YOU ARE GOING TO DIE

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.
SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION – THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH
It’s a small story, about:
a girl
an accordionist
some fanatical Germans
a Jewish fist fighter
and quite a lot of thievery.
ANOTHER THING YOU SHOULD KNOW – DEATH WILL VISIT THE BOOK THIEF THREE TIMES
Review:

I have a bit of a history with this book, which I will be posting about in my Random Reads discussion next week. I was pleased when Stacie chose it for me to read, as it’s been so long since I first read it that I can’t really remember what I thought of it.

For anyone who doesn’t know (and hasn’t read the summary above), one of the most interesting things about this book is its narrator. Rather than being narrated by Liesel, the protagonist, her story is told through the eyes of Death, who watches Liesel and visits her three times.

This is a really different quirk and Death’s narrative voice adds a lot to the story. The book is full of rich metaphors that I think work well because they’re told from the point of view of someone who isn’t human, or seeing things like us. Death notices colours a lot and describes things in a way we probably wouldn’t.

This is a good point and a bad one in my mind, as, while sometimes I think it creates a really beautiful picture of what’s happening, other times I feel like I’m trawling through metaphor after simile after metaphor. It all got a bit much after a while, and I sometimes found myself pausing to puzzle over what a metaphor actually meant, which brought me out of the story.

The second world war setting, along with Death narration, brings something very ominous to the story. You know vaguely where it’s going to go – not in a predictable way, just in a ‘Oh no, awful things are going to happen’ kind of way. It also creates characters that you can’t help but love in that difficult position. A favourite for me is Hans, Liesel’s adoptive Papa who comforts her in her nightmares, teaches her to read and disagrees with the Nazi party, even as he tries to placate them to keep his family safe. It’s a complicated situation, one impossible to win really, but he tries so hard to do the right thing.

Liesel herself is a great protagonist – strong, smart, and ultimately flawed in a way that makes her relatable. Sometimes she says awful thing because she is unhappy, she does or doesn’t do things she regrets, and that just makes her all the more loveable.

I sometimes found the language a little jarring – often people will say something in German, and then the translation is given too, as if they said that as well. This probably annoys me because I speak German so it was like reading the same phrase/similar thing twice, but when the majority of dialogue is in English it did feel a bit odd.

The ending is a really bitter sweet one. Which is how I often say I like my endings, although this one has a lot more for the bitter and a lot less of the sweet. But there’s something about it that makes me not want to describe it as wholly sad. But you shall have to read and judge for yourself, I don’t want to spoil anything here!

This is a really beautiful book and you can see why it appeals to adults and younger readers alike, and why it is so internationally read. Reading after such a long time has been like reading it for the first time and I can safely say now it is definitely a book I enjoy, just a little heavy handed with the metaphors for me.

My Verdict:


Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!

Check out Stacie’s review of The Book Thief here

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6 comments

    • Maia Moore Reads

      I'd definitely recommend reading it, although you'll probably find more positive reviews than mine. It's a book that I kind of know is good and others would enjoy, but also one that I don't think I like as much as anyone else seems to.. Still, I would recommend giving it a try!

  • Tiana

    Very well written. Having Death as the narrator of this book definitely personifies it and shows it as a fact of life rather than a terror. It also creates a unique quality about this book because although the narrator isn't who the story is about they still know everything that is going on and can interact at any moment. This in itself causes a sense of anxiousness because you know the narrator will step in at some point, you just don't know when…

    • Maia Moore Reads

      I know what you mean, I kept worrying when Death was going to show up and do his job…Even when he foreshadowed certain deaths, I still got anxious when I knew we were coming up to one.
      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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