“The Book Thief” is a novel by Australian author Markus Zusak. It is one the strangest book I have ever read. Before I read this book I had checked several reviews and I was puzzled by the polarizing opinions, that range from “a wonderful book that changed my life” to “the worst I ever read”.
For me “The Book Thief” is a book worth a read, with many parts that makes this book unforgettable. However, I can understand why some people hated this novel. Here are the most common issues people have with this book:
- This is a boring book– in contrary; I think the author did a fantastic job writing about nothing. This is not a science fiction book or criminal thriller book, where the writer can have a wild imagination and can create all kinds of intriguing motives. Zukas had a small “pool” of options, he wrote about simple life in the Nazi Germany, where the biggest excitement of the week, was the eating of a stolen apple. You have to give the author credit for skilful writing when even such an ordinary event like kids playing soccer or painting the windows black sounds interesting!!
- Strange layout and the narrator- people get irritated but the “dryness” of the narration. But this book is narrated by the Death, so what are you expecting? Before every chapter the author would give us “headlines” of what is going to happen in the next section. I did not finding it annoying, I found myself pausing for a second and thinking what each “headline” could mean ( many times I was wrong). Many times the narrator would say what is going to happen in the next chapters- yes I found this little strange but by the end of the book I got why he was doing it.
- Slow read– I agree this book was long but I had only two moments where I was ready to skip a paragraph. Most of the time the author kept me interested.
- Simplification of the War and the horror of the Holocaust – I don’t understand this point at all. This book has just enough of the War horror for it to be in the back of my heard all the time. I believe that the intention of the author was to remind us that there is a horrible war going on while we are reading about little girls stealing books. I think Zuzak also did a great job by showing us that not every German was a Hitler lover, many ordinary people were scared and traumatized by the Nazis. I myself have a strong knowledge of this subject, as my grandparents and parents lived in occupied Poland during the II World War. I grew up about 50 miles from Auschwitz and heard many stories from people who survived the occupation and the camp. I think this books is quite fair and exposes the other side of the war ( from the point of view of an ordinary German citizen). There were some moments in this book, where I swear I could see my Grandmother with a wooden spoon yelling “Jesus, Mary and Joseph” about everything from a water spill to a broken leg!!
There are some wonderful, emotional moments is this novel. It starts with powerful image of a little girl Liesel, whose mother is giving her up for an adoption and whose little brother died on the train platform in front of the girl. It is a heart breaking story of the small girl trying to figure out why her mother is giving up on her and why her brother died. Liesle struggles with the concept of dying and rejection, but then she is slowly adjusting to her new life and accepting her new foster family. This book also has strong and powerful images of friendship, love and sacrifice of the ordinary people in extraordinary and difficult times.
This book did not make my “Top Books List” but I think it comes very close.