Review: The Book Thief

I’m torn on this World War II novel by Australian author Markus Zusak. I just completed this 500-pager for my Jewishy book club because it depicts life during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. I appreciate that this book offers a different perspective than what I’m used to as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. This story is about an adolescent, non-Jewish girl, living with foster parents in war-torn Germany. She loves to read and, more accurately, steal the books she reads. She has a great relationship with her best friend, Rudy, and her foster father, Hans. She also develops an incredibly deep and heart warming connection with Max, a Jew hidden in her family’s basement.

What makes this read even more interesting is that the narrator is Death. Bet you weren’t expecting to hear that, huh? Rather than Death being depicted in a devilish manner with evil ways, Death sounds exhausted by all the work it has to do during the Nazi reign. At the same time, Death seems to be intrigued by the ways of humans and their actions throughout the novel.

So far, this sounds like a winner. And it certainly is worth a read, especially for the young adult audience that is supposedly being reached out to (What teenager wants to read a 500+ page book narrated by Death?…).
What I don’t like is all the foreshadowing that’s done in this book. The reader knows what’s to come throughout the whole story, and for me, that made it less interesting. I knew who was going to die (sorry, there’s lots of that) but just not exactly when or how. For some, that would be intriguing and nail biting and one of those “I NEED to know what happens” kind of things, but I just lost interest…

The writing was also very scattered. It was choppy and mixed in with all different kinds of information (dictionary definitions, notes, etc.). I know this was done on purpose, but I found myself very confused throughout. Rather than being enveloped by the story, I kept getting pulled out into reality and couldn’t fully enjoy the reading.

Overall, this is a heart and gut wrenching story, as most Holocaust ones are. I like that the message of the book is all about the power of words, so I think it’s worth reading. The book has received high praise from all over the world, so don’t just take my opinion into consideration…

P.S. A very interesting idea came about during my book club discussion. There are many different cover graphics for this novel based on the country in which it was sold. That could be a conversation starter!


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