Monday, July 2, 2007
I didn't want any of you to think that I was going to talk about some book thief or other at our building.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a strange and moving book. The Narrator is Death, so that makes it different from standard realism from the start. The story takes place in a town outside Munich, Germany, during World War II. The events naturally include a lot of pain and death, and yet, because the narrator's style is friendly, matter-of-fact, it doesn't strike me as viscerally painful as say a movie version would be.
Some readers may not like the book's aesthetic distance from the horrors, although I found it close enough. Death announces "spoilers" through the book (unlike me in this review), and I think it helps the reader prepare somewhat for when events are actually related.
The story concerns Liesel from 10 through 14, mostly and her foster family, a friend named Rudy, the town Mayor's wife, a jew named Max, and the different effects WWII had on these people in Germany. It has everything I think a good story should have--excitement, some romance, some suspense, sadness, death (and Death), redemption and ambiguity.
I must admit it didn't take the top of my head completely off, but part of that may have been because I read it so gingerly: I have to ration my pain, and I didn't want to become crushed and devastated by surprise. (e.g. When I read Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis when I was in college, I was depressed for a week. Really. It was that good, and I was that depressed. For good or ill, The Book Thief didn't affect me like that.) Nevertheless, TBT is an excellent book, and I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in the everyday obstacles and pain that some Germans had to overcome during WWII.
One final note: while the audio book is an excellent recording, there are line drawings of pages that Max made for Liesel, and if you don't have the book on pages, you don't get to see those illustrations.