The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Oh this book. It is incredible. Painful. Dark. Slow. Mournful. Beautiful. I loved it. And yes, I hated it. But it is a book that strikes you with its realness despite its fantastic elements. I give it 4.5 Magnificent Stars--it loses points only because its realism robbed me of the happiest of endings. The ending is good, probable, and acceptable. But not quite as hopeful as I would have preferred.
Writing Technique: ★★★★★ This is not a fast read. But it is grand because Zusak's writing is thoughtful, poetic, shocking, and different. I love that the narrator is Death, and that Death doesn't tell the whole story in a straight line. Had we come to that ending with no warning, I might have been enraged. But style of the storytelling is such that it is engaging and surprising. One must be patient. One must be focused. But ultimately, it is a rewarding story to finish.
Character Development: ★★★★ Liesel, Papa, Mama, Rudy, Max - these characters have my heart. Completely. Even Death. In trying to explain this book to others, I've struggled. It's about Liesel, mostly. But ultimately, it's about her effect on Death, the "person." She grows and changes and does many great things. Papa is the most admirable man. Rudy, a boy to love and follow. And Max, a man robbed of everything who finds hope in a family of misfits. And ultimately, the last words of this book do not spoil anything but aptly portray Death's thoughts and perhaps reason for telling this story (read them or not, it's up to you):
"I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality, but what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant. None of those things, however, came out of my mouth. All I was able to do was turn to Liesel Meminger and tell her the only truth I truly know. I said it to the book thief and I say it now to you. I am haunted by humans."
Plot/Story Development: ★★★1/2 I will say that not as many things happen in this book as are felt. Experienced. Learned. The plot moves slowly. But it is not a story that's really about things happening as people and their relationships in a tumultuous time (World War II).
Message/Theme: ★★★★★ life, death, love, hate, suffering, pain, struggle, fight, family, friendship, hope, war, peace, ethics, racism, power, strength v. weakness, The Power of Words, the essence of humanity.
Audiobook Performance: ★★★★1/2 Allan Corduner is the perfect voice for Death. His German, French, British (etc.) accents are all masterful. Fantastic audiobook if one can be patient enough to listen and if one doesn't fall asleep (as his voice is comforting and lulling even when discussing the darkest of subjects).
Rating: PG/PG-13 for language (there is muuuuuch swearing in German--which I rather enjoyed--and also some in English.)
Overall: ★★★★1/2 One of the best historical novels I've read. Quirky. Dark. Brilliant.
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