Book review: The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

Markus Zusak’s ‘The Book Thief’ was both recommended and given to me by my older sister, who received this book as part of World Book Night. She said that it was the best book she had ever read, and to this day, it remains her favourite book. This gave me high expectations for this book – expectations which were not even nearly reached.

This particular book needs to be looked at from both an entertainment, and a literate point of view. The reason for this is because, although I was told it was “the best book ever”, I personally found it very boring, and it took me months to finish just the first half of the book, as I would soon lose interest after reading a chapter or so, and then wouldn’t pick it up again for a very long time, having said that: I do need to credit the end of the book, as it did make a drastic jump, from dead-boring, to emotional and interesting. It also had good messages and themes to it, and managed to talk about serious issues and topics without having to tone them down, and it did so while remaining suitable for all readers. That is an impressive feat.

Reviewing this book gives me so many different aspects to look at, one of which is the very original way in which the story is actually written. Unlike most books which either follow the main character, or are written as a diary, this book is written as a narrated piece by Death himself, who is reading from the book of a young girl. This allowed Markus to explore many new paths when telling his story, and enabled snippets of humour and footnotes, that wouldn’t have been possible from a regular point of view.

There are many possible reasons that Zusak wrote the book through the eyes of Death, and I have my thoughts on the matter… Using the view of Death allows for things like textures and colours to be used as metaphors that both explain the theme of the story, and amplify it. It also allows the reader to see such things in a sort of poetic manner, and so it can be perceived in more than just the typical, bleak, depressing way.

The colours of the sky in particular coincide with this theory, as the colours are used to match the mood of the characters, or of Death himself. It is a good example of pathetic fallacy, something that is far too easily overlooked by a lot of readers and authors.

There is of course, more than one contributing factor towards the entertaining – or not so entertaining – side of this book.

The main problem that I found with this book is that, it is supposed to come across as a sort of story book that consists of one linear story based around Liesel Meminger; this however, is not the case. It actually appears as just a jumble of short stories, that are constantly switched back and forth, and don’t really have any links that could allow one to consider them part of a singular plot. This lead to me quickly losing interest in the book, as there was no consistency whatsoever. Towards the end of the book on the other hand, the book starts to revolve around the survival of Liesel, around the times of the bombings.

I read through the last 200 pages or so in a matter of days; not because it was interesting, but because I simply wanted to finish it.

The use of Death of a storyteller, the constant, and obvious pathetic fallacy, and the very theme of death, does not go to waste. *SPOILER ALEART!* as basically everyone dies at the end of the story, the message does not go unnoticed, and the emotions do start to come out.

Because of some of the reasons I have already mentioned, and some that I have not yet got to, from a literary point of view, this is one of the best books I have ever read. It is essentially a story, inside a bunch of stories, inside a big story, inside a book. I find this rather astounding, as it sounds as though the story should collapse in on itself due to the sheer weight of the book – metaphorically speaking.

This book gives perspective on things that are, and should be important in life, and gives quite a few life messages to its readers.

Overall the book is slow paced, boring, and is not well structured. However, it is very poetic in the language that it uses; it is well written; and it does get many good points across.

I cannot say I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good story book or something with a good plot, though, I can say that it is a good time filler, and could be good to someone who enjoys reading slowly. And I would definitely recommend it to any English students, teachers, or anyone who enjoys grand pieces of literature and language.

The message behind this book is: ‘No one can escape death. You can avoid him for a little while, and you can even get close to him and make a narrow escape, but no matter how fast and far you run, he will catch you. He is the sky above you.’

Joshua Nathan Hart – Age 17.

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2 thoughts on “Book review: The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

  1. Katherina

    I love this book and most of this love because of Death. I think it because in a wartime Death was everywhere and saw everything.
    Maybe you will like “I’m the messenger” by Markus Zusak 🙂

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