I’m not going to lie, I totally cried at the end of this book. I’m not sure what I really expected this book to be about or how I thought it was going to feel like after reading it…but I really had no idea it was going to be like this.
A simple piece of information that I think you need to know about this book that will automatically intrigue you: the narrator is Death. I think, for me at least, that’s all the information you need to know. It’s based on the story of a girl, narrated by Death. How more interesting can a book get right now? So you see recently a friend of mine made me read Sandman (a comic book) where there is also a scene towards the end with the introduction of Death as a character. Having read the Book Thief afterwards I felt like this concept, of using Death as an actual narrator, was both bold and quite tragically beautiful in a way. There is just the right sense of distance as you go through the story but there is just as much feeling and emotion that pours out through the pages as you delve deeper into the story Markus Zusak has created.
Here is a short blurb from GoodReads if you haven’t read the book but you are interested in reading it:
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.
By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.
So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.
I highly recommend this book and suggest going out and reading it immediately.
Death, as mentioned before, was the perfect narrator for this book. I mean, in the time setting and period that it was set in, it was also quite an interesting view on Germany through the Nazi period. He almost attempts to ‘protect’ the audience as well by announcing things that were going to happen such as the death of Rudy and other characters as he jumps back and forth between time periods.
I loved the colors that Zusak used to describe and create these horrific images that Death came upon during the war into something that was more serene and silent. Whenever Death talked about taking someone he made it as if he was gently removing a precious object and observed the sky. The color of the sky, for me at least, created an atmosphere that was so compelling. I remember mainly the description of the sky of pure white, the color of innocence over the mass amount of bodies that had been killed during a war.
Liesel, was a likable character which I think is quite important during a story, especially in a third-person narration because the audience isn’t able to go into their mind as easily as they can during first-person narration.
I loved Hans and Rosa even though they were placed in the cliche position of the stern mother who still occasionally showed her love through small gestures and seemed to pull most of the weight around in the family, against a cheeky father who the adopted daughter connects with the most. They really helped Liesel develop and also gave us more relatable characters and gave the audience a wider view of the experiences people had to go through during that time period. We not only got to view the experiences that the Nazi’s created through a child’s view but also from the perspective of parents who are trying to clutch desperately at their own morals and beliefs as well as trying to protect their family and each other.
Max was a lovely addition to the story. Having the Jew hidden in their basement, as well as the whole story of Liesel’s hesitant but then very strong friendship with him that gradually grows between them, allowed the story to progress at a steady pace and there was never a moment where the interest level of the audience drops.
As Zusak introduces multiple characters such as Rudy, Max, Rosa, Hans, The Mayor’s Wife, having Death as the narrator, he allows there to be jumps between the story, adding sub-stories that continue to build more of a connection towards the characters as well as keep the story flowing and developing.
I have to admit, the stealing of the books, though they were (at the few times they occurred) interesting, felt like they were placed a bit on the back burner for a duration of the story. I know at the time it was difficult to have books but I felt the core title of this book was to do with the story line of Liesel stealing the books and I felt like it wasn’t as used and developed as it could have been.
I did, on the other hand, enjoy reading the scenes where Liesel gradually began to read and develop her writing skills with Hans.
There were so many beautiful images created by Zusak throughout his books such as the scene with Rosa and the accordian as she waits for Hans to return after he gets sent into the war, as well as the scenes between Liesel and Max where you physically get to see the book he created before your own eyes and so on that I couldn’t stop rereading multiple paragraphs over and over again.
In general to my surprise the pace was quite slow, even for me who can read books such as that at quite a quick pace. I found myself wanting to slow down and savour every moment of this book, allow myself to slowly get attached to this story..only to have my heart ripped out at the end.
The ending scene, though it was short, was heartbreaking, and even though the audience knew it was coming, you couldn’t help but hope it was all just a mistake. But Zusak still leaves us with a more positive ending and of course a reunion between Liesel and Max that left me crying for ages.
Other than that all I can really say is I look forward to finally watching the movie adaptation of this book as well as recommending it to as many people as I can in the short amount of time that I have before I find my next obsession ^^
Language/Style: 9 points
Plot: 8 points
Originality: 9 points
Characters: 7 points
Giving this book a total of 33 points out of 40.
Favorite Part: I witness the ones who are left behind, crumbling amongst the jigsaw puzzle of realization, despair and surprise. They have punctured hearts. They have beaten lungs.