Book Review – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

book thief

This book is much talked about, much passed around, much celebrated and consequently, a must read.

So, here is the basic blurb:

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.

What did I think?

The unique perspective of Death himself narrating the story is interesting and makes this book a fine read indeed.  There were times however, where I felt Death’s little tangents took me away from the story.  For example, early on in the book I wanted to really get into the thick of Liesel’s unfolding story and I felt the flow wasn’t really happening until about a third of the way through.  I really wanted it to be a page turner but Death’s slightly repetitious musings seemed to arrest the flow.  However I settled into it and must say that those musings do become very significant later on in the book.

Typically, with such a subject of Hitler’s treatment of the Jews and his unique hold over the Fatherland, there were harrowing descriptions.  These were beautifully off-set within the characters of Liesel, Papa, Mama, Rudy, the Mayor’s Wife and Max.  Their personal journey’s through those war years in Germany are beautifully told; held together by intertwining words, phrases, stories, experiences and of course, a few books.

There has been much written about, and movies made, depicting those all too familiar sights and sounds of Auschwitz and Dachau, persecution of the Jews and fear, but it was the perspective of the ordinary German people who made this story so engaging.  Those war years for them, was a mirror of what it was like for British people.  Only, what came across to me was an underlying fear of Hitler by those ordinary people.  A silent reluctance.  We on the other hand had a very purposeful and inspirational icon to guide us through those times.

My issues… (but with a glorious conclusion).

I am a fan of creative and poetic writing when it comes to descriptions within a great book but I have to say that at times I struggled with the occasional adjective within the story.  Sometimes I felt I had to stop and think about some of Death’s phrases with a bit of a frown and this kind of stopped my flow.  These were few and far between as I did like the style of the delivery.  I got used to the way Death presented his thoughts and recollections and admired his logical and inevitable approach.  He became more than the phantom we assume.  He had a purpose but he had a conscience, he was curious and he had a memory.  He was actually haunted by humans and of course during 1939 and 1945 he was very, very busy.

Even though I had tiny issues with it personally, flow-wise, by the end of the book I couldn’t take away from the fact that this is a modern literary classic so I have to give it a worthy 5/5


3 thoughts on “Book Review – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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