Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I think there was only one thing that bugged me in this book, and that's because I took four years of German in high school. (I wasn't particularly delighted with the integration of basic German into the characters' dialogue when the rest was in English.) I just thought I'd get that out of the way, because otherwise, I really liked this book.

Death, the narrator of The Book Thief, doesn't have much of a sense of humor. I'm not sure he saw much to be humorous about in the 1940's; as he keeps pointing out, he was pretty busy. But he loves colors and figurative language. And he loves Liesel, the book thief of Himmel Street. He doesn't seem great at suspense--he keeps telling readers what's coming five chapters ahead, but it never happens like you think it's going to happen. Well, almost never.

The book is set in Germany during World War II, but though there are Nazis, they're more on the fringe than part of the story. Death first sees Liesel as she's on her way to a foster home, but he encounters her several more times before the end of the war. (Of course people die--it's a war. And yes, if you're inclined to cry at sad movies or books, you will cry during this book.) I especially liked the formatting of the section pages:

Part 6

The Dream Catcher

death's diary--the snowman--thirteen
presents--the next book--the nightmare of
a jewish corpse--a newspaper sky--a visitor--
a schmunzeler--and a final kiss on a poisoned cheek

I also appreciate the way that moments and thoughts were highlighted within the chapters, set aside in bold text and centered:


He didn't go into battle that day.

Sometimes they let readers know what was about to happen and sometimes it's just a reflection of something that had happened. Either way, it's very effective. I suppose those are Death's asides.

Like the cover--someone about to push over set up dominoes--the book is rushing toward disaster. I think Death at one point called it "beautiful destruction" (tongue-in-cheek). Despite the perpetual threat of annihilation, the beauty of the story is Death's being drawn to this good person in the middle of the war and making a point of telling her story, which he finds impossible to forget.


raidergirl3 said...

And I loved how the ten chapter titles were the ten important books mentioned in the story. So well written. Have you tried his I Am the Messenger? It's my favorite of Zusak's.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

I need to read this book still. I've seen it around and heard a bout it, but have yet to read it. glad to hear it's a good one!


Jessica said...

I really loved this book too. I generally get annoyed when comments in foreign languages are bandied about in English books, but I forgive Markus Zusak for this one.

Have you read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao? (It's written in Spanglish!)