Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story is set in Germany during WWII and tells the story of Liesel, a young girl sent into foster care when her mother can no longer care for her.

There's a lot going on in this story. One of the things I found interesting is the identity of the narrator and the way he catalogs Liesel's life. The figurative language is at once beautiful and at times nonsensical, but I got a kick out of it. The use of colors to convey the feel of a place or an interaction is one thing I particularly liked because it required me to think abstractly.

As for the characters, they are all built up so well they seem real. I particularly love the foster parents, even mama, who is a firecracker and takes a rather abundant glee in tossing about insults. I also love Liesel's admirer, Rudy, and his claim to fame, a rather dangerous thing to be known for in the time period, but lovable all the same.

That being said, the setting and the times make it obvious this story can't be all sunshine and rainbows. Tragedy looms large over everything, and even the narrator throws in spoilers, usually right when something great has happened. You know, stuff like 'this was great and Liesel was the happiest when such and such happened, but then this horrible thing was just around the corner, and oh, maybe I shouldn't have told you yet.' That sort of thing. Each time, a few additional heart wrenching details are revealed, but by that point, you can't stop reading.

Then, toss in all the German words and phrases. I both enjoyed and disliked this. At first, I tried to look all of it up with Google Translate, but there's just so much of it sprinkled in, I realized that was a futile activity, particularly for a couple of the most used words in the book, saumensch and saukerl. So, that was a bit annoying, until I realized that the author kindly includes the translations. Sometimes he tosses them in as a repeat in English; others, he throws in a definition from the narrator, all formatted and centered so it stands out from the story.

Overall, I loved this book. It's humorous and tragic and likes to remind the reader that everyone does, in fact, die. There are corny lines and silly jokes right next to horrific images and insights into one of the darkest times in recent human history. A constant balance between good and evil, life and death, beauty and ugliness. This is a masterpiece. I highly recommend this to folks who like stories that make them think and that do so in a unique manner. This is a long book but, in my opinion, well worth the time to read it.

I borrowed this ebook from a local library.

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