Tuesday 22 October 2013

Blast From the Past: The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Orginally published in 2005 by Picador (Australia)

My edition: 2012 paperback from Definitions

What’s it about?
Narrated by Death and set in Nazi Germany, The Book Thief tells the tale of Liesel, a stealer of books. Moved to a new town to live with new parents alone, this is her struggle to survive as the bombs begin to fall.

Why now?
With the film adaptation currently filming, I’ve been flooded with screen shots, trailer reaction and gorgeous, gorgeous quotes and I’m feeling rather left out. And it’s Jenny from Wondrous Reads’ favourite book and I trust her taste.

The verdict:
I feel like everybody loves this book. It’s one of those books that everyone has reacted so viscerally to that they have to tell every person they talk to about it. I was looking forward to discovering a book like that. Sadly, I was disappointed.

As I started The Book Thief, I was wracked with nerves. Will I love it? Will it take me forever? Will it destroy my heart? I was thoroughly surprised by how easy it was to read and I sped through it. At just under 600 pages, I never thought I’d have this review ready for today but I read it in two days! Zusak’s writing is stunning and so involving. Death’s narration is such a unique view point and I love the way that he discussed humans and their lives. And yet I still didn't fall in love with The Book Thief.

I’m rather wary of war novels. They put me o edge in ways that I don't enjoy and can't quite pin point. I felt none of that with The Book Thief and yet the novel was a stark portrayal of a view of World War Two that doesn’t get considered very often: the German everyman. You’re not taught about the effect on the average person flinching under the rule of Hitler, about the people who don't buy into his poisonous words, the ones who risk their lives for the persecuted. It’s eye-opening and heart-breaking, and yet I still wasn’t feeling the connection I wanted to.

Leisel, while a brilliant and engaging heroine, didn’t stick in my heart anywhere. Only Hans, Leisel’s foster dad, and Rudy Steiner, Leisel’s best friend, had any impact on me. They were the most complex and interesting characters in the novel, bar Death himself and Max. And yet, with everything that happened in the final chapters, the bit that I was warned would make me sob my heart out, nothing. I didn't even get choked up! And I think it was merely down to the fact that I didn't connect with the characters properly. It’s a shame and I definitely finished the novel disappointed that my heart was in one piece and I didn't go back to work with tear-streaked cheeks.

Still not convinced?
-  You want to see the film right? You know the rules: book before film.
-  It’s narrated by Death.



  1. I read this book in 2011 and gave it 7 or 8 out of 10, because it was well written, but it didn't punch me in the gut like some other books have. Even Stephen King's "Cujo" was a harder punch in the gut than "The Book Thief." Nevertheless, I saw this as a Holocaust themed novel that was meant to spark a reaction.

  2. I definitely agree with your book-before-film rule. I did love The Book Thief but there are other books that I disappointingly didn't love that seemingly everyone else in the world did (The Scorpio Races, most recently) so I completely understand the feeling. Perhaps this book was just too hyped up for you, or maybe you wouldn't have loved it regardless. I was really nervous when I heard they were adapting this novel for the big screen, but after seeing the trailer I'm cautiously optimistic. Maybe you'll like the film better.

    Anyway, thanks for your post. I wrote a post on The Book Thief on my blog recently, feel free to check it out, should you feel so inclined: www.bookmarkdragon.com. I'm new the book blogosphere, and am really excited to stop being a lurker and be a more active participant in these conversations about books. Wow, this comment got long. Anyway, thanks again for the post.

  3. I won't ramble on here because I do that enough on my own blog and Twitter, but just wanted to say that I'm really glad you read and liked it and it's totally ok that you didn't cry. My mum was the same, so I disowned her. ;)

    Anyway, this book completely destroyed me and still does every time I read it. I'll never read anything better.


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