Where do I even begin?
First, I am going to steal like Liesel and post the beginning of Goodreads’ user Tamara‘s review of The Book Thief (Is it stealing if I credit her? I mean, I don’t actually want to steal her words and her be mad at me should she ever see this!): “I give this 5 stars, BUT there is a disclaimer: If you want a fast read, this book is not for you. If you only like happy endings this book is not for you. If you don’t like experimental fiction, this book is not for you. If you love to read and if you love to care about the characters you read about and if you love to eat words like they’re ice cream and if you love to have your heart broken and mended on the same page, this book is for you.”
I have to say, if I had read those words before reading the book, I might have been more hesitant to read it. But the choice to read this was actually a whim, based solely on the fact that I found I could borrow it as an e-book from my library without having to wait, so I thought, Why not?
But… Not a fast read? Maybe I’ll read it later when I have more time. Not a happy ending? I definitely don’t want to check that out. Experimental fiction? Well, I don’t know how I feel about that.
But wow, the words… the way Markus Zusak crafts words in this story is truly magical, and as an aspiring writer, that alone makes this book a worthwhile read. But then there are the people inside, whose story is so simple and tragic and believable and you cannot help but root for them.
I could quote so much of this book, because the book permeates beautiful imagery that you experience with all five senses, but I will let you discover the words yourself when you read them. What you need to know is that the narrator of the book is Death, and despite what you might think, he’s not all bad. In fact, he’s fascinated by colors in the sky and by the spirit of humans who are living and dying. And he is particularly taken by the story of Liesel, a young girl sent to live with a foster family while living in Nazi Germany.
Her brother has died, she has been separated from her mother, she never knew her father, and she feels all alone in the strangers’ house with an empty bed beside her. But she grows to love her new Papa, she makes a best friend named Rudy that the people in town find strange, and she makes it her personal mission to learn to read the book that she stole at her brother’s grave site.
I won’t delve any further into the story, except to say that books, reading, and words all play an important part in Liesel’s life throughout the story. This is what carries her through hard times and what bonds her with certain people. I love when a book focuses so much on words.
I will say, however, that The Book Thief is not a perfect book. I actually found the pacing slow at first, because the story is so simple (and the first chapter or two is confusing I think because of Death’s narrative), but the more you read, the more you care about the people. Also, about halfway through the book Death gives you a major spoiler alert for the end. I guess in a way this was good, to soften the blow as he even says (plus he hates suspense!), and it made it less hard later. Yet, it also made it maybe a little less emotional as well. But don’t get me wrong, I still cried at the end.
And then there’s the language. There’s a lot of it, a lot more than I prefer. I considered knocking off a star for it, but it felt wrong to give this book the same number of stars as other books I did not feel nearly as inspired by, so I give it five stars with that caution of language. There were not any f-bombs, but there was a large amount of “moderate” language.
This book is very stylistic. If you can’t get on board with what the author is doing, you won’t like it. But I hope you give it a chance if you haven’t yet. And while the book is incredibly sad, there is some hope in the epilogue (without it, this may have been a four star review instead). Though it’s small and I wish there was more, it was poignant and was probably just the right amount for proper closure.
Stephen King once said: “There are books full of great writing that don’t have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story… don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that. Read sometimes for the words–the language. Don’t be like the play-it-safers who won’t do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.” I believe this book is both good story and good words, a book to treasure.
Language: A large amount of moderate language, as mentioned above. You can also read more about it at Rated Reads.
Sexual: None, except a mention of imagining someone naked, but there is no description.
Violence: Mild/moderate. There is death in this book, but it’s not described in too much detail. There is also some other violent incidents, some which are mentioned with some detail, but nothing too graphic.
I know this is a favorite for many. If you’ve read The Book Thief, what were your thoughts?