Books

Book 112: The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

This is one of those situations where I’m glad I don’t read the backs of books carefully each time before I start reading a book. I went to the library knowing there was a book about a book thief I wanted to read. I assumed this, The Book Thief, was the correct title as a few people have blogged about it recently and I’ve a friend who also recommended it…

About a quarter of the way through the book I realized this was definitely not the book I thought it was, but kept reading. Whoops! When I finished The Book Thief I went back to my handy list of books to-be-read and found the book I planned on reading was actually called The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett. A stretch, but same basic premise – a person who steals books – but completely different stories and tales.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Book Thief. It was a fast paced novel which held my attention and kept me interested with little tidbits of (what I am assuming are) factual information about WWII. Although this is the story of Liesel, it is just as much, if not more so, Death’s story. Told from Death’s point of view, this book definitely provided a different perspective to WWII than any I’ve read before.

However, even though I enjoyed the book, I’m slightly torn on the subject matter. Where does one draw the line on taste and at what point does literature become fetishistic or voyeuristic (or too commercialized) without meaning to be? Each time I read a new book about WWII I ask myself whether it’s worth reading the book. Do I want to read the book for its potential historical value? Should I purchase the book as the more I see and the more books I read about WWII I have to wonder if we are now commercializing these atrocities. I’m a firm believer that we must learn from our mistakes and learn history or we’re doomed repeat them/it.

The story itself was interestingly written and I enjoyed Liesel’s obsession with books and the way it came about, regardless of the morbidity. And even with the above caveat, I feel that Zusak brought something new to the subject matter with the narrator’s point of view. The one thing that did bother me, but that I got used to, were the random asides by death in the bold typeface. It often times pulled me out of the story and I struggled to get back into the flow.

Recommendation: It’s worth a read. I doubt I’ll re-read it or check out more work by Zusak, but I thought it was well written and offered a unique perspective.

Opening Line: “First the colors. Then the humans. That’s usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try.”

Closing Line: “I am haunted by humans.” (Whited out.)

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8 thoughts on “Book 112: The Book Thief – Markus Zusak”

  1. Aw, man, I loved this book, and it was one my favorites out of all the books I read last year. I didn’t feel it was voyeuristic or commercialized at all. I cried through the whole ending, and for probably another fifteen minutes after I’d finished it. Haha! I’m sorry that it wasn’t your thing. I am interested to read your thoughts on the book you thought you were about to read–I’ve been eyeing that book for a while, unable to make up my mind about it.

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    1. Reading your comment – my post clearly came across as a bit too jaded. I meant the entire war genre in general. I think I’ve just read too many recently and it’s not my usual thing. I did enjoy the story, but I for some reason didn’t get emotionally engaged even at the end when I was like, oh I should be more upset about this. I think I’ve just become so deadened to this particular type of novel – which isn’t a good thing.

      I’ll definitely post a review of the other novel if I’m still writing when I get around to reading it 😀

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      1. I totally understand that. I have done that once or twice–gotten into a particular subject matter and read too much of it at once. Also, I am an empath (sometimes to a fault), so I get very weepy when other people are hurt or visibly sad, even if those people are fictional. Le sigh.

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  2. I’ve been hearing a lot about this book, so I think I’m going to have to pick it up. I’ve actually read very few novels set in WWII, so it hasn’t gotten quite as stale for me. I do like the idea of a main character obsessed with books!

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    1. That was the draw of it – the obsession with books. I think it was all wars in general, at the moment, which have jaded me. One too many war novels and I’m just sapped. I just finished read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and that has a book obsessed character I found much more relatable.

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  3. I haven’t read this yet though did buy it for a friend – but now in the last 20 pages of Primo Levi’s excellent non fiction masterpiece ‘If This is a Man : The Truce’, I think I will need a break from WWII literature for a while.

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    1. Yeah you can only read so much of one time period at a time unless you’re truly in love or obsessed with it. Definitely glad the next few novels aren’t war novels.

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