I Need To Talk About 'The Book Thief'

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

"It was a nation of farmed thoughts."

I finished this book last night and need to talk about it, because it may be the most well-written book I've read.

Markus Zusak's "The Book Thief" tells the story of a young German girl named Liesel living her life during World War II. Liesel steals books, her foster father plays the accordion, her foster mother swears a lot, and her best friend Rudy wants to kiss her. Oh, and it's narrated by Death. It's a story about family, friendship, life and death and the irony in them both, the power of words, the thrill in thievery, and the limits you would go to in order to protect the people you care about.

And it's written wonderfully.

I don't think any author's work has ever struck me as much as Zusak's. Of course, a big part of it is his unique narrator – Death himself. An unusual (and grim) choice, but fitting, considering the story takes place in Nazi Germany. The thing about having Death tell a story like this one is that the tone comes off somewhat casual at times. Tragic events are mentioned more in passing rather than by shining a spotlight on it. But it works. Tragedy being described like everyday events is what makes it so emotional and impactful. That's the POINT. Death and tragedy WERE everyday events during that time. It's never described positively, just nothing out of the ordinary. It's Death doing his job.

Another great thing with Zusak's writing was the foreshadowing. It wasn't done in a subtle or mysterious way, but rather blatantly telling the reader what's going to happen. And again, it worked. It wasn't spoiling anything, it was just... real. It's even acknowledged in the book:

"I have given you two events in advance, because I don't have much interest in building mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you."

There was no reason to build suspense, because we can guess where the story is going. It's not about being surprised or excited. It's about feeling things. Being immersed in the characters' lives and caring about them.

Reading this book really felt like listening to somebody tell a story, and that's where the appeal is. It's fiction, but not completely. The characters are made up, but they really existed, in some sense. I can't get over how powerful Zusak's words are in this book. It was like nothing I've read before. I have three pages in my journal filled with quotes that I scribbled down to look back on. I am both wildly impressed and pathetically envious, wishing I could write half as well as Zusak. He really knows how to pack a punch in just a few words.

If you haven't read "The Book Thief," I strongly recommend you do. And if you have, ISN'T IT GREAT?

"It's probably fair to say that in all the years of Hitler's reign, no person was able to serve the Führer as loyally as me. A human doesn't have a heart like mine. The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I'm always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I Wonder how the same thing can be both. Still, they have one thing I envy. Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die."

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  1. This sounds like a really interesting book, I think what's intrigued me is the fact that it is narrated by Death. Definitely want to give it a read.

    The Velvet Black | UK Style & Beauty Blog

    1. It definitely makes the book more unique! I'm sure there are a ton of books out there about Nazi Germany, but having Death as the narrator gives it a different angle.

  2. I haven't read The Book Thief yet and I feel terrible. Because I KNOW it's good, it's just I haven't got around to it. It's a very interesting concept with Death as the narrator. I would love to read more books like that!

    xx Bash | H E Y   B A S H | bloglovin'

    1. This is the first & only book I've read with Death as the narrator, but I'd definitely be interested in reading more that are set up like that in different contexts. It's a good twist to the story, and I thought it worked great in this one.

  3. When I read the title of this post, my heart skipped a beat. It's one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. My paperback is full of highlighted sentences because I was afraid I would lose them. I can never forget "The depressing pea soup and Rudy's hunger finally drove them to thievery" because I felt like I was feeling the depression that soup must radiate. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the wise, sarcastic and deadly narrator. Death.

    Not Your Type Blog

    1. That is a great line! One of my favorites was, "He left Himmel Street wearing his hangover and a suit." Not only is it clever wording, but I liked how it was HIS hangover and then just A suit. I wish I owned the book and was able to highlight and underline my heart away, but I was borrowing a friend's, so I just wrote them down.

      Thank you for commenting! I could talk about this book forever.