Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief didn’t really hit home as it did for so many other readers that I’ve seen on GoodReads. The Book Thief is the first novel I’ve read that takes place in World War II that isn’t non-fiction. I’ve always enjoyed reading about this period of time, not because World War II happened, but because of the many components that caused it to happen was intriguing in a painstakingly, twisted way. I picked up this book because of the interesting premise  and because of the many good reviews I’ve heard about it. Unfortunately, I didn’t come to enjoy it as much as I thought I would even though this is a good, good book. I do recommend it to anyone interested in reading a piece on historical fiction. The Book Thief is written from the perspective of Death/Grim Reaper, and I suspect that because of this, I just was not so emotionally attached to the main characters.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Cover found on Wikipedia.org.

During WWII, Death makes his rounds collecting souls from those who died, and this particular story focuses on Liesel, a poor German girl living in a outskirts of Munich. Death constantly premeditates important plot points – the time when Liesel steals her first book, the upcoming death of Rudy, the death of Papa, etc. Death’s narration interrupts the flow of the otherwise third-person ‘neutral’ perspective when he gives these previews, and I can’t quite make up my mind whether I like this or not. On one hand, I do not get the element of surprise and am fully prepared to find out what happens to Liesel’s friends and family. On the other hand, this is war. What else can you expect to come out of this treacherous period of our history?

The key element I like about The Book Thief is that it focuses its attention on the lesser talked about folks – the poor Germans who live in the countryside. Those who are just trying to make ends meet. Those who do not really give much of a pig’s butt whether Jews live or die. These are the folks who join the Nazi Party so their family is not punished. They join because they know better than to resist. For me, this is the more interesting parts of the book and is what keeps me moving along. The Book Thief is not a page-turning, fast-paced novel, but it is one where you can pick back up at any point and still remember what happened before.

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