Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Book Thief: Review.

High commercial and critical acclaim as well as friends personal recommendations and even a drunk woman on the tube all told me I needed to read this book, and like a child peer-pressured into smoking I buckled. However, after all the build up I feel the book became a victim of its own hype, much like Lady Gaga’s last album. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a very good book, very powerful and touching but I didn’t really engage with it as much as I wanted to. I liked it but I didn’t love it like I was told I would.

The story is simple enough; it follows a young German girl, called Liesel, through her early teens in 1939 Nazi Germany, her family, friends, loves and her very naughty habit of stealing books. Oh, and it’s told through the perspective of Death, that’s quite important.
At first I wasn’t sure if it worked, having Death narrate the story, a very interesting and original concept that to me seemed a bit pointless and kind of a gimmicky. I mean how could Death, who had a lot to do at that time, follow a girl around? But as the book progressed, it comes clear that he is reading the girls story from a book himself. That book was written by Liesel, who has been taught to read and write by her foster father Hans Huberman, using the basement wall as canvas for practicing how to spell. The Book Thief is all about words and stories and their importance.
Liesel’s family have a secret that no one but the three of them, Death and the reader share. It’s a Jew in the basement and that is not something recommended to be keeping in Nazi Germany. His name is Max who writes and draws short stories for Liesel on the white painted pages of the book that saved his life, Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ ironically. I really like Max’s books, their crude, childlike drawings and simple text has so much more power then Death moaning about how busy he was in 1942.
I almost felt Death was too compassionate towards the people he collected, should Death show emotion when he has to do what he does? As the book progresses, we do of course witness some horrible moments, including a particular horrendous march of Jews down the street, reminding us of the disgusting level humanity can sink to and often did at the time. The ending of the book is also harrowing, made even more prominent by Deaths blunt and powerfully simple story telling. I won’t lie, at first I wasn’t as impressed by this book but as the story wore on I became more and more invested in Liesel, so much so that I couldn’t help feeling the pain, the anguish, the regret and even the happiness the came with it. Read The Book Thief and see for yourself.
Let me know what you think, Please feel free to comment, follow, plus and share.

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