This book meanders. In fact, for a reader who fancies a snappy pace, this one will likely seem slow. It’s also a little confusing because it hops around in space and time, often spoiling surprises by casually revealing what happens in advance.
This book is about WWII and Nazi Germany. How many WWII books have you read? I believe WWII has a corner on the market in historical fiction. Do we really need another one?
Of course, since it’s about WWII, it’s a rather ugly and depressing story. And to top it all off, the story is narrated by Death.
It is also, perhaps, the most beautifully written book I have ever read. It’s also powerful and somehow heartening, but for me, the language was intoxicating. There weren’t a handful of good lines; there were clever and evocative descriptions and phrases on almost every page. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that Markus Zuzak talks the way he writes, it seems so effortless and pervasive. Here is the tiniest of nibbles:
Himmel = Heaven
Whoever named Himmel Street certainly had a healthy sense of irony. Not that it was a living hell. It wasn’t. But it sure as hell wasn’t heaven, either.
- Upon her arrival, you could still see the bite marks of snow on her hands and the frosty blood on her fingers. Everything about her was undernourished. Wirelike shins. Coat hanger arms. She did not produce it easily, but when it came, she had a starving smile.
- The secret sat in her mouth. It made itself comfortable. It crossed its legs.
- The sound of crying children kicked and punched.
- … it was raining on Himmel Street when the world ended for Liesel Meminger. The sky was dripping. Like a tap that a child has tried its hardest to turn off but hasn’t quite managed.
- She was the book thief without the words. Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain.
For teens who can read and appreciate this book on their own, hooray! For the rest, I think it’s worth reading together and discussing. While I believe kids should be free to read what they want and that reading should be fun, I also believe that now and then kids need to be shown excellence, the champagne and caviar of literature.
Here’s to The Book Thief. Cheers!
And now it’s your turn: What are you reading?