TITLE: The Book Thief
AUTHOR: Markus Zusak
RATING: ★★★★★ (5/5)
I love books about war, don't you? I know it seems weird come considering they're all basically about the mass slaughter of thousands of innocent people, but we don't think about that sort of thing as readers. We think about how the effects of the war psychologically impact the people in our novels and how it translates onto the page. When I read Birdsong this year I was just reminded of how much those sorts of books really mean to me.
After I finished Jane Eyre I wanted to treat myself. Not my giving myself a 'break' but letting myself read a book which I've been excited about for a long time. That book was The Book Thief. I bought it in Lancaster a couple of months back after my close friend read it and summed it up in one word: amazing. She said it was about the three things I loved most in the world; war, books, and religion. Not to mention that it was written beautifully and ultimately unforgettable. I could not wait to read this book.
I cannot sum up one great thing about this book, because there are so many elements in it that made me want to keep reading it forever. It's the story of a young girl named Liesel who is growing up in Germany when the Second World War breaks out. From that description it might seem like one giant cliche, but it isn't. There's one thing about it that makes it different from all other Second World War novels; it's narrated by Death.
Death is completely emotionless. You sometimes forget he's even a character because he is embedded so much into the story. But just because he is emotionless doesn't mean the story turns two dimensional. He is the perfect narrator, we know we can trust him unlike such other characters in fiction like Nelly Dean or even Jane Eyre. The way Death confides in us makes the story seem personal and close to heart. It's like he's reaching out to us and it's this that really makes feel fall in love with the characters.
Liesel isn't your average girl. She starts the story illiterate, but as the novel progresses she learns to read with the aid of her Papa, and consequently turns into a bibliomaniac with the constant desire to steal books. She way she saunters through life makes the reader want to stay and get to know her, we want to know about the adventures she has with her clown of a best fried Rudy. It makes us think about the fun we used to get up to when we were young kids.
But the nostalgic overtones aren't over-powering. The elements that are to do with the war are constantly there. There is always a sense of danger in the background that something bad could happen to any of the characters we have come to love. My favourite character was Max. I don't like to explain his situation in case of spoilers, but he was as inspiring as a character can get and even now I just feel the need to pick the novel back up again and tear through it.
It's heart-breaking, it's warm, it makes you want to cry and then laugh for hours. There is so much going on about this book yet the author never deviates from the main story line. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It's one of those ones where you physically cannot bring yourself to take a break from it, and every time you have to close it for the night it just breaks your heart.
Above is the trailer for the film adaptation which comes to UK cinemas in January, though it's already out in the US. Though it seems to incorporate the atmosphere of the novel, I'm worried that they may have missed out the whole character of Death from it. If so, I'm not sure what the impact will be. Nevertheless, if you're not going to read the book I would definitely like everyone to watch the film.
I finished reading both The Great Gatsby and The Outsiders last week, and I have a lot to say about both of them. I'm also reading A History of Modern Britain for History class, but I might take a couple of breaks in between it over Christmas to read Lolita. I can't wait for Christmas, there will be so much time to just sit down and read!
I'll update soon with my review of The Outsiders!