The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

Another re-read for my book club! Luckily, since I knew going into it that the last fifty pages or so were going to make me bawl my eyes out, I managed to just cry a whole bunch instead. One tissue only, though! Still so, so sad.

This is a book told by Death, beginning with death, and ending with death, but it manages not to be about death.

The first part of that sentence was really difficult for a lot of my fellow book-clubbers, but I think if you’re prepared and/or used to odd narrative styles, you’ll be okay. Death is an interesting narrator, with its odd little view of the world that mostly involves dead people but also apparently involves being incredibly and possibly overly poetic about everything. I like Death, but it could tone it down a little.

And what’s really cool about Death as a narrator is that hey, how does Death even know this story? Oh, right, because our protagonist wrote a story about her life and called it The Book Thief and then Death found it and read it and is now telling us the story. So you’ve got a frame story and some unreliable narrators and I am SO IN.

The titular thief is called Liesel Meminger, and she’s a young German girl who gets sent off to foster care with her brother just before the start of World War II except that she’s the only one who makes it to foster care on account of her brother dying awfully on the train there. That’s a good way to start off the story, yes? But Liesel keeps going and makes a new sort of family and makes some excellent friends even if she doesn’t know it sometimes and even though the war comes and makes everything pretty much absolutely terrible, she still keeps going.

And of course there are stolen books, hence the name, and there’s some Hitler Youth fun times and some hiding a Jew fun times and some hiding in basements from the bombs fun times and it’s all depressing, really, but you still come out of the book thinking that maybe things aren’t so bad after all, and that’s really amazing. I adore this book, maybe even more the second time around.

Recommendation: Bring some tissues. And an open narrative mind.

Rating: 9.5/10
(A to Z Challenge)

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak (1 March — 5 March)

-sniffle- I really wasn’t sure about this book. I’d heard good things, but when I picked it up and started reading I was a bit put off by Death’s narrative style. Yes, Death is the narrator. Of a Holocaust book. Oh, joy. And Death spouts off about colors for a chapter, and it’s symbolic, sort of, but it didn’t make a lot of sense while reading it. Death also cuts in all the time with weird, bolded pronouncements like

* * * HERE IS A SMALL FACT * * *
You are going to die

That’s on the first page. I was a bit concerned. But then, as I read some more, I got used to the intrusions and even started to appreciate them. That fact seems almost appropriate to this book.

Anyway, I said the book was about the Holocaust, but it’s not, really. It’s about a young German girl who is sent to live with a foster family during Hitler’s reign, and how she grows up amid the tumult. She makes friends, she gets into fights, she steals some books (obviously), she helps hide a Jew, and she generally becomes a fine young woman. Of course, bad things happen all over the place. To paraphrase Death, an admission: I cried for the last 50 pages. It’s not a happy book, and it took a bit to really pull me in, but it is a very very good book and you should read it.

Rating: 9/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge, Orbis Terrarum Challenge: Australia)