‘The Book Thief’ – Markus Zusak
HERE IS A SMALL FACT – YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.
1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.
SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION – THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH.
It’s a small story, about: a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.
ANOTHER THING YOU SHOULD KNOW – DEATH WILL VISIT THE BOOK THIEF THREE TIMES.
I found this an unusual story and difficult to get into. Narrated by Death, this tells the story of a young girl, Liesel, who is taken in by a family in Munich after being given up by her Mother, at the beginning of the second world war. Once I was used to the idea of Death narrating Liesel’s story, I was bemused by the narrative voice and his opinions towards events. Indeed, throughout the book there are often asides from Death, providing small facts, lists, word definitions etc, that Liesel’s story does not provide.
Zusak explores the idea of the empowerment of words. It is through learning to read that Liesel is empowered and seeks to understand the meaning of words through reading books. She is content with reading her small collection of books over and over again; getting something a little bit different out of the story and finding comfort in the familiar words. As her story progresses, Liesel understands more about how words can influence others and some of the descriptions – both from her and Death – are quite poetic and colourful.
Death’s presence indicates an ominous ending and throughout the story I was always wondering how Liesel and Death would meet. Indeed, I felt fearful for when this time would come, and when Death would meet her close friends and family. As the second world war develops and the bombs begin to fall over Germany, readers know that it is only a matter of time before Death visits the street where Liesel lives.
Whilst this is a lovely story to read, I found the interjections from Death disrupted the flow of the story. Agreed, it is a clever way of narratimg a story, but I was a little frustrated with Death’s narrative voice and wanted to simply learn more about Liesel. As such, I found my mind wandering at times because I could not get stuck in to the story. That being said, I am glad I have finally come to read this book and understand why it is so popular. Like a fable, ‘The Book Thief’ demonstrates to readers the power and influence that words can give you and the closing of the novel provided a satisfying and comforting ending to Liesel’s story.