The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Markus Frank Zusak is an Australian writer. He is best known for this book, The Book Thief and The Messenger, two novels for young adults which have been international bestsellers. He was born in Sydney, Australia on 23 June 1975 and has received many accolades for his work including: Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Children’s Literature,National Jewish Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. In 2014 he has also won the Margaret Edwards Award for his contribution to young-adult literature published in the USA. His mother is originally German, while his father came from Austria and they emigrated to Australia in the 1950s. Markus is the youngest of four children and has two sisters and one brother. He attended Engadine High School and briefly returned there to teach English while writing.
The Book Thief was published in 2005 and has been translated into more than 30 languages. Beside winning awards in Australia and overseas, The Book Thief has held the number one position at Amazon.com and on the New York Times bestseller list and I really wanted to like this book. I especially did not go to see the movie before I read the book because I wanted to read and enjoy the book first. It was such a disappointment.
The narrator of the book is Death. This is a really clever concept. It starts in 1939 in Nazi Germany and Death has never been busier, and will become even busier. The story is about Liesel Meminger a little girl living outside of Munich who has been fostered and scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing. Then she finds something she cannot resist: books. With help from her accordion-playing foster father, Hans, 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.
I don’t know if it was the way the narrative was set out or if it was the labourious descriptions, but I just did not get emotionally involved in this book. In fact I found it really hard to continue wading through it at times. This was not because of the subject matter. I was happy to read something from the point of view of the German citizens at this period. This book just did not resonate with me. I found myself feeling bored and looking forward to the end.
For me the deaths felt flat and I just could not find the dialogue gripping. I could not get out of my world and into the world of Liesel. I did feel pity for her quite often throughout the book. I was certainly horrified at the descriptions of the effects of the war. I am glad I have not had to endure such hardships. It brought back all the knowledge I had learnt about the treatment of the Jews. I found these events horrifying because of the fact that they occurred but not particularly because of the way the author wrote about it.
This simply was not a book for me. I can definitely understand why many people like it but I was not sufficiently invested in the characters. I found myself longing for the ending so that I could pick up a different book. I intend to save money by not going to see the film either!