The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Published On: March 14, 2006
Published By: Black Swan
Genre: Historical Fiction
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It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
This book is so well-loved around the world and to be honest that is why it has taken me until 2017 to pick it up. Hype scares me. I always put off reading the most hyped books for fear of being disappointed, and the majority of the time I'm left wondering why on earth I didn't pick the book up sooner. That was the case for The Book Thief. This was such a powerful, important read, especially for younger people to understand the impact of the Second World War.
This was my first foray into historical fiction, and what a great book to choose. I have always been a little scared of historical fiction, if I'm honest. It's a genre I have always considered out of my comfort zone, which is probably another reason why it has taken me so long to get to this book. Although I haven't read any others to compare, I would definitely suggest this book as one to get you into historical fiction if you're not sure where to start.
One of my main worries with historical fiction was that it wouldn't be as fast paced as I like, and the story wouldn't hold my attention because of this. However, in this book at least, I thought the pacing was great. It was a bit slower paced than I tend to like but the story didn't drag and it still kept my attention. I actually really appreciated the slower pace as it gave me time to properly take in what was going on.
A quality this book is well-known for is it's very unique narration. I know a lot of people, including myself, are initially drawn to this book after discovering the book is narrated by Death. I was so intrigued by that aspect as it is definitely not something I have ever read before. I actually very much enjoyed Death as a narrator, which I wasn't sure I would, and thought it added much to the story to see it told through his eyes. As well as the unique narrator, the way the book was written was very unique. The notes from Death throughout the story were an interesting addition, though I didn't always like them.
The one thing that did hinder my enjoyment slightly was the way in which Death basically spoils the whole plot for the reader. As I mentioned, I didn't always like the notes from Death, in particular when they just explained what was about to happen in the story, or how the whole story ends. I felt as though the major events could have been much more impactful had I not already known what was to come. I often found myself waiting for a specific event to happen and then when it did I often felt a bit underwhelmed. However, I will admit I did still get emotional over many of the events, despite knowing they were coming.
My only other issue with this book, though it didn't bother me too much, was that I felt a little bit disconnected from the characters. I think this was due to the book being narrated by Death. Like I said, it didn't bother me hugely I just didn't feel the connection I would like to have had with the characters and that would likely have been different with a different narrator, although I'm not sure the book would be just as great without that unique aspect.
Overall, this book was most definitely worth the hype. I wish I had read it sooner, I think I may have enjoyed it even more when I was younger, but I am glad to have gotten to it eventually. As I mentioned, I would definitely recommend this book if you are just getting into the historical fiction genre, as I found it to be a great introduction.