gina's Reviews > The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
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's review
Jul 26, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction, young-adult, history
Read from July 26 to August 06, 2011 — I own a copy

It’s hard to imagine a book about Nazi Germany that is not heavy-handed with its humanitarian message.

I’m so sorry, everybody, but I don’t want to read 500+ pages telling me how horrible it was in Nazi Germany. I’ve actually been to Auschwitz. I’ve laid my hands on the ovens, toured the facilities where they experimented on Jews, and walked through the showers. Believe me, that pretty much does the trick for a long time. I had my World War II overdose and I’m a bit too much of an empath to go back for a while. I guess it's a personal thing.

So many people said to me, you must read The Book Thief--it’s fantastic! But they never told me what it was about. I don’t know why I assumed it was supernatural fiction. Perhaps I was putting it into the same category as Inkheart, another book about books, where characters are viable living things. The Book Thief is nothing like Inkheart.

Having said that, The Book Thief is a fine book to read if you want to understand some of the daily struggles of life in Germany at that time. This book peeks into the trials of pro-Nazi Germans, anti-Nazi Germans, neutral Germans just trying to survive, and, of course, Jews (most of whom are Germans; I assume they are anti-Nazi). The characters each have a clear voice and compelling stories to tell. You really care what happens to them, even if it takes 500 pages to get there.

Sorry I keep mentioning the number of pages, but it’s a very long book. I find it hard to believe this was written for a young adult audience. Just because the main character is a kid, does that make it a book for young adults? But I digress.

Aside from the characters, the other reason to read this book is the short story contained within it, “The Standover Man.” It is sweetly written and sweetly illustrated.

A comment about the writing style--first, at times Markus Zusak tries too hard to be literary. There is so much metaphor in the book that you get a little tired of it. Dude, just say it! Also I found the use of foreshadowing a bit excessive. Maybe the author feels he needs to do this because the audience is young adult (I’m not sure who came up with that classification), but when every other chapter ends with something like, “That was the last time she would smile--ever”--well, it gets real old. Actually, one chapter ends like this:

For now, though, let’s let him enjoy it.
We’ll give him seven months.
Then we come for him.
And oh, how we come.

Really? Do you have to end every chapter with a teaser like this? Also, I am annoyed by the excessive use of one-sentence paragraphs, but that’s just a pet peeve of mine.

I was so aware of the conspicuous use of literary devices that I had trouble getting lost in the story. Frankly, the writing seemed contrived and distracting. I would read a line like, “His fingers smelled of suitcase, metal, Mein Kampf, and survival,” or, "The sky was like soup, boiling and stirring," and then think to myself, oh he’s using figurative language again. Where was I? Oh right, I’m reading a book about a girl in Nazi Germany where Death is the narrator. See my problem?

As I write this, I am not sure if people are even critical of this book, because they are so impressed by the theme of the badness of Nazi Germany. Nevertheless I’ll take a chance. This book could have (should have) been about 100 pages shorter, or more. Remove the excessive metaphor usage, excessive foreshadowing, and sidebar comments by the narrator that don’t add to plot or character or setting. There! I feel better now. The book doesn’t seem so long and labored.

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Reading Progress

07/29/2011 page 48
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