Zannachan's Reviews > The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
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F_50x66
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Dec 04, 13

bookshelves: young-adult, general-fiction
Read in March, 2007

I had a hardcover of this book. I no longer have it. I did not even finish reading it, because it irritated me so much and when I asked if it got better no one could convince me that it was worth persevering.

I know that there are many people who love this book, authors who's book I love, readers who's tastes I respect. But I couldn't stand the narrator. Every time the Narrator intruded on the story it felt like exactly that--an intrusion. A lot of people really like the narrator, and I imagine if you did the book would be much more enjoyable to read. As it was I found the writing style consciously "artistic" or "literary" while the characters felt fake, superficial, and mechanical. I was too aware of the mechanics of the story and how he was manipulating the reader--kind of like going to a puppet show and having the puppeteer continually slipping and letting himself be seen. It kept knocking me out of the story.

Holocaust fiction is hard for me to read anyway, because it's an incredibly difficult period of history and human experience to read about. For me to want to read Holocaust fiction, it had better be better than okay, or even good--ti had better be absolutely amazing for me to be willing to put myself through the emotional pain and struggles that are inherent with a holocaust book. Real life is hard enough for me to get upset and stressed out by a mediocre book.

And please don't take that to mean that I only read books that are light and fluffy and safe, because I do read books that are hard, that are sad. But while some people same to take pleasure in reading a book just because it is sad ("Oh, this is a wonderful book! It made me cry!"), I don't enjoy crying in and of itself. For me to read a book that is heart wrenching, it had better offer me something besides an emotional train wreck--powerful characters I really care about, an engrossing story line, some new observation on human existence and human relations, something.

I do not usually read fiction to "learn," per se--that is, if I wanted to learn more about the Holocaust, I'd read non-fiction accounts. I have read non-fiction accounts. I have read a few things of Holocaust fiction as well, and I have read some scholarly work as well. So it doesn't sell me on the book that it is a painful story, that it shows that some Germans were good and how social pressures created the Holocaust. I needed it to be a book about people that really interested me, that I cared about, and instead I was bored with the characters and irritated at the narrator and the obvious manipulations of the author. Instead of getting wrapped into the story, every night I when I was reading it I'd throw it down and vent for a half an hour to my husband about something that annoyed me. After a few nights of this, I realized that unless someone could convince me that the second half of the book was much better than the first that it just wasn't worth my time to finish.

'm not saying it's a bad book. So many people wouldn't love it if it were bad. But it really did not work for me.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 85) (85 new)


whalesister I felt the same way you did at first, and decided not to finish it. Death as narrator completely irritated me, and I hated that I was so aware of the author's hand, and really, I'm sick to death of reading about the Holocaust. I don't know have any idea why I picked it up again, but I'm glad I did. Give it another chance, and I think you'll find yourself caring about the characters by the end, even if you don't want to. The book I hated I now recommend to all my friends.


Meaghan I don't really think of this as a Holocaust story, per se. I mean, obviously, the Holocaust is part of it, but there's a lot more to this book than the Holocaust. Part of the reason I liked it so much is because it shows WW2 from a German perspective, which you don't get in fiction very often.


Julia I agree with how you felt about "Death" and his interjections. It was off putting. I finished nonetheless ... and though it was a really good plot - I would have rather not read it actually. The ending was so very sad and I felt deflated once I finally finished it.


Adrienne I totally agree with your review, this book was a big disappointment. I was really looking forward to reading it, but the obvious manipulation by the author and the narrator were just too irritating! I liked the characters well enough, but every time "death" interjected to tell me what was going to happen, or to recap what had happened, I felt as though the reader's intelligence was being insulted. I know that the book was written for young adults, but they are savvy enough to be insulted as well! Plus the heavy handed treatment of the "book thief" concept was too much for me. I felt like I was being hit over the head with the idea that Lissel was a book thief.


message 5: by Jason (last edited May 21, 2008 01:46PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jason i agree with you as well...
i'm very surprised its been so unanimously praised...


Jennybug I really liked your honest review of this book. I almost didn't finish it. Yet, I am glad that I did. The story I mostly enjoyed, I just didn't like death telling it. I felt as if I was watching a movie with my son that he had already seen. Hence, the plot kept getting spoiled. I just hate spoilers, what an interesting concept spoiling your own book as you are writing it.


message 7: by Salavin (new) - added it

Salavin "But it really did not work for me." Is this enough to judge a book and it's author? seems a little childish and inappropriate. I'm not saying it's a good book, but your motifs doesn't make it bad either.


Sofia Although I respect your opinion about the spoilers, I must disagree. I think the spoilers really added something to the story. It makes it all the more heart-wrenching when you know that characters will die at the end. And really, I don't even think that they are spoilers. The ending shocked me even though I knew who would die, since the so-called "spoilers" don't give away how they die or what happens after they die. I think the true climax is when the mayor's wife comes to talk to Liesel about the stolen books, and Leisel finally talks to her.


Meaghan I agree with Sofia.


message 10: by Ann (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ann I like the way you described it as a puppet show where the puppeteer's arms keep showing. That's exactly how I felt. I rolled my eyes and skipped pages at a time, but ultimately finished the book. Great story, poor choice of narration.


Sarah Did you know that the narrator was Death? And that considering this story was written in the time of Hitler, Death is the best narrator the story could have? Just thought you should know that.


Maggie I agree with Sarah and Sofia. With the setting and such, it's not much of a secret that Molching is eventually going to bear the brunt of the war. And I like how Zusak experimented with his writing. Most writers keep to the basic structure, while his writing feels more fresh to me.


message 13: by Kris (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kris Irvin I know what you mean. I tried reading this book a few months ago and just could not get into it. I didn't like the constant interruption, it drove me crazy. After a friend recommended it to me I decided to give it another try, and I'm glad I did. But I'm still a little sad that the narration is so wonky, because it means I can't recommend this book to someone who I think would really enjoy the story.


Danielle How long did you actually read the book before you stopped? I have to disagree with you on all points and say that I got right into the plot and I actually really enjoyed the narrator's parts. I didn't see it as an interruption, I felt he was guiding the story along. I also disagree how you call the narrator a "puppeteer" because he is not controlling the main character or even the plot, he is merely telling a story and connecting it to the main character's story.
I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone.


Laura Metz Of course death is an intruder. I'm sure that was purposeful. Not many people say, "Hey death, come on over for a visit."


message 16: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin I didn't mind so much Death as a narrator, but I also didn't find it that experimental or groundbreaking as far as structure or style goes.

Yes, it's interesting to set a story in WWII from the German perspective (and the innocent German perspective at that), but it's hardly a novel idea. And using a child's perspective to emphasize the cruelty of the world has been done many a time.

I found the writing to be nicely stylized, but tame. If the style had been bolder or more deft (because I'd call it decent, but not spectacular), or if the plot had been less generic, I probably would have appreciated it more.

As it was, I found it enjoyable, but ultimately, bland.


message 17: by Kara (new)

Kara I have to agree with you. The story was fine in regards to the characters, but Death as a narrator was annoying, distracting, and took away from the story I thought. Besides, why would Death care so much about human life? And all these people trying to convince you you're wrong: ignore them. You are entitled to your opinion, and if you hated a book that everyone else loves, so what. A lot of people like James Patterson and he is one of the worst writers out there, so not every book can please everybody.


Laura Metz I like to think I've brushed by death a few times and I'd also like to think he's intrigued by me.


message 19: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will J How do you not like this book? This is one of my favorite books. I don't even think you understand this book. See, the narrator is death, and that's why he's always "intruding". It's the holocaust, for god's sake! Of course he's always going to be popping in for a visit. He would constantly need to be in the area, gathering the dead. I STRONGLY disagree with your opinion.


message 20: by Kara (new)

Kara I majored in English in college, so YES I understand this book. Just because it's about the holocaust doesn't immediately make it a good book, the writing has to be there, and for me the writing didn't grab me, didn't make me feel anything for these characters. I'm glad you disagree. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and everyone has different opinions and it's OKAY.


message 21: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will J I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I just don't see why or how anybody doesn't like it.


message 22: by Kara (new)

Kara The book is well written, I'll say that, I just didn't find the characters or the narrator compelling. I've read other Holocaust novels that were much more touching. Like I said, I think I could've enjoyed this book more if it were written from Liesel's point of view.


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

I completely agree with Meaghan. I think this book is great because it allows you to see war from an angle which most people never even consider. It is heartbreaking and sweet at the same time and shows people the suffering that the ordinary people of Nazi Germany endured (e.g, Rudi's family, Liesel's adoptive father, her original parents, max, etc.).
x




Irisjade I kind of get what you mean here. I'm only beginning this book and though I like it, the fact that death keeps interrupting me is like, "Is this book about the girl or Death?" I mean I would like a book about either of them, but come on, pick one. It's kind of annoying and though I like both characters, I would appreciate it if Death would bud out for the rest or most of the book...


Talen I'm thinking if you can not tell whether the book is about Death or Liesel, you missed the whole point of the story. Liesel's story was one of Death's favorites, that's why he kept the book she wrote. The story is one of Liesel, Death, and how they intertwine.
As a side note, I rated this book after I had finished it. Anyone who's not even willing to finish a story shouldn't rating it.


message 26: by Claire (last edited Dec 29, 2009 12:22PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Claire Monahan Well, I have to disagree with a lot of the commenters here. I myself gave this book 4 stars, but seriously people? You're attacking this reviewer because she didn't like the book? Literally everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I think Zannachan has made some valid points why the book did not agree with her. She wrote, "I was bored with the characters and irritated at the narrator and the obvious manipulations of the author." What is not clear about this opinion? I think we've all felt boredom or irritation at some point in our reading history, and these are two very valid reasons to want to quit before finishing.

There is not one sole point to take away from this book; it is a diverse read with many universal themes, but they are not necessarily intended for a universal audience. Obviously what Z disliked the most about The Book Thief was the style and the author's voice. Therefore, arguing that Z missed the point of the book or that she doesn't have a right to review indicates that these readers miss the point of Goodreads.


Ashley B. Oh be quiet "Zannachan"...what kind of name is that anyway?
I disagree with you completely.
Just go home.


Caroline I really liked this book! I recommend it whenever someone asks for suggestions. It IS very heavy, (it took me nearly an entire summer to read, and I'm a fast reader.) But by the time I was finished, I felt like I had accomplished alot.


message 29: by Tina (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tina Rachel, I agree with you. I also agree with the post regarding Death being purposeful as a narrator. It should annoy you. Death is a huge interruption of everything...Life! Bigger point to the story and bold of the author to try spinning a story from that perspective. Give it a try again!


Emily What you say makes sense. IT does kind of feel like ann intrusion. But if you try to lose yourself more in the plot of the story, then maybe the "intrusions" will feel more smooth to you. It's to good a book to abandon this soon!


Rebecca You totaly have the wrong opinan abou this book and that's probably because you didn't finish it..... In the end it all comes together and it makes perfect sence. And ou also don't understand how this book isn't just another war book but that it is a book that can be tired through history and can be set in any time it is just that well written. If you don't appreciate how well this book is written and how it ties readers in through figurative language then I think you may have mis read it. Try to read it again and I prommis that it will make you love this book and the author.


message 32: by Chris (new)

Chris I would love for this song to be on the soundtrack if they make a movie.
Creatures of Love - 'Book Thief'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0WRzw...


Jenny Galbraith I agree with your review. The writing style was not smooth. It felt like I was watching a movie that kept jumping around.


message 34: by Ruth (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ruth whalesister wrote: "I felt the same way you did at first, and decided not to finish it. Death as narrator completely irritated me, and I hated that I was so aware of the author's hand, and really, I'm sick to death of..."

Thanks for this I will try to keep going...


message 35: by Eleanor (new)

Eleanor I'm glad that I'm not alone in thinking that this book is painfully contrived and artificial. Only one character comes across as believable: Rudy.


message 36: by Ruth (last edited Aug 31, 2010 02:49PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ruth Ruth wrote: "Thanks for this I will try to keep going..."

I finished it and yes I reached a point where I liked the characters (especially Rudy) and wanted to keep reading. I'll be interested to find out what others in my book club thought about it.


message 37: by Eleanor (new)

Eleanor I hope that you will post the reactions of your book club friends. I must add that my friends loved 'The Book Thief,' so I keep my negative comments to a minimum.


Kayleigh Emily wrote: "What you say makes sense. IT does kind of feel like ann intrusion. But if you try to lose yourself more in the plot of the story, then maybe the "intrusions" will feel more smooth to you. It's to g..."

There is no such thing as a wrong opinion. It is completely subjective and you shouldn't judge people because their opinions (especially regarding something like literature) don't match yours.


Carissa I agree with the reviewer completely. I was tempted to stop reading the book half-way through as well but stuck it out. I wasn't impressed. The book feels artificial and contrived. None of the characters felt real to me. I agree with Eleanor that Rudy is the only character that came off as believable. Death giving away the story was very anti-climatic and annoying. There are better books out there that teach the same lesson.


Bobbie Maybe you should try it again. You are truly mising out on a deep hearted story.


Amanda Michelle I agree with Will J! I don't understand what you all mean by the puppet thing... Death is going to 'pop' in bc people are dying every second!


message 42: by Sharon (last edited Apr 25, 2011 01:24AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sharon I agree with this reviewer and I DID finish the book. "Death" as the narrator just did not work for me. And please don't anybody tell me I have the "wrong" opinion!
Perhaps because I've lived in Germany for a very long time the story just did not feel authentic. There are a lot of better books about ordinary Germans during the war that never got translated into English. I would highly recommend, for instance, Nirgendwo ist Poenichen by Christine Brueckner, the story of a widow with five children who flees from Poland to West Germany. A harrowing story that broke my heart -- but you'd need to read it in German.
The characters in the Book Thief did not have a German feel to them.


Amanda Michelle I gree with Bobbie. You're really missing out.


Sharon Well, the book is written for children/young adults so maybe you fall into that group and were accordingly impressed, and, in typical youthful fashion, believe you've seen the ultimate light.
No other way I can explain your presumption in thinking you can know what a complete stranger to you is "missing out".


Natalia I read this book for school in eighth grade and absolutely loved it and have read it since. I love the narration, I think it made the book a lot of what it was.


Renee I must say I love that adults find the need to throw the fact that the book is made for the youth and therefore it had not reached a level of depth that their "mature" books have. Personally, I disagree completely, as is my right. I will not ask the original poster (can't remember your name at the time I'm typing this, sorry) not to reread the book. After looking at your reasons for disliking it, I don't know if finishing it will help. As you are entitled to disliking the book, I am to feeling otherwise. And we both (for the sake of positive arguments) may say why or why not. Firstly, I've read a few holocaust novels. Night being my second favorite. I believe it was by elie weisel. The book their being my favorite. I am a fan of markus zusak. He makes me think about every second of life and I encourage those who didn't like the book their to read "I am the messenger" and you will see what a true stretch this book was for him. I honestly commend him for it. I found the characters in the book their addictive. When I thought of her papa, I would picture his silver eyes and then I would picture my own father. Because that's what a book like this is supposed to do (in my "novice" opinion). It makes you take people from your life and appreciate them. We clearly have different book taste because I did not find one character in this book dry. Rudy being my favorite, second papa, then death. I, personally, did not find death an intrusion, but something else. An entity. He was not the narrator, but the book.. I suppose that makes no sense, but it comes from a "feeble" mind, yes? I digress. I want to be a writer, it's a passion of mine and The Book Theif is always going to be my favorite book. Well, because I don't think reading books that make you cry automatically makes them perfect, but consider it. A line. A page. A fictional character. Just that. And it brings you to tears. To me, that it worth a read. (no pain, no gain?) I always go back to fahrenheit 451 at times like this. It's in the touching, that's the difference. To me, that's what changes lives.


message 47: by Olivia (new) - added it

Olivia I'm in complete agreement-the narrator is far too annoying! If only there was some way to opt out of his running commentary...


Albion I agree about the narrator's interruptions. Every time he said something which I'm sure the writer wanted us to think was a beautiful metaphor, I just wanted to throw the book across the room.


Natalia I just reread this book and fell in love with it all over again...this is a truly incredible book and you are missing out. I have cried every single time I read this book because it is so touching...please try to work through it...you will appreciate it.


Natalia Claire wrote: "Well, I have to disagree with a lot of the commenters here. I myself gave this book 4 stars, but seriously people? You're attacking this reviewer because she didn't like the book? Literally everyon..."

I agree with you however I think that just because you don't like a book doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to appreciate it.


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