The Book Thief – Mark Zusak (2005)

I wish I could have read this book sooner, like the two previous books I have read this one had me hooked but on some many levels it was so much more.

The book is narrated by death and follows it through the Second World War and describes its encounters and the live of Liesel as she survives in Nazi Germany. The book openly invites the reader to experience the other side of the coin, while many considered Germany at this time to be hostile it is easy to forget that there were people who wanted to live their lives as discreetly as possible and some who opposed Hitler. While Liesel does not fully understand to begin with what the implications and consequences are for opposing Hitler she slowly understands and we as the reader are taken with her as we follow her child like intelligence. With the addition of Max into the situation complicates matters for her and her family however, through his addition we are able to see the mental conditioning that many underwent and how children took this conditioning from their parents without realising or trying to understand the reasons behind such thoughts.

Death is, for me, is the best character within the book. Despite not being given a description I was able to see it perfectly (I say it instead of “he” as Death is not given a gender). The colour descriptions that Death provides the reader with a unique insight into the way it might see live around it. Zusak steers clear from the stereotypical vision of death with a black cape and scythe (at one point in the novel Death mocks the motion of carrying one) and projects a new way of looking at the masked being. A character (gender undetermined) who is looking at the ways that death happens, the character is given low forms of emotions; regret is one that is best represented as it collects the lives of children, gingerly carrying them in its arms.

The diary entries stories written by the main characters added a new level into the storytelling experience. It showed a depth to the characters which would be hard to portray in words. It showed as with Liesel innocence as to what was happening Max’s innocence as well. The boxing matches with Hitler in the basement were particularly well thought out and described, an accurate metaphor for the struggles of the Jewish people.

This book has jumped to the top of my list, the intricate weaving of expository detail into the lives of those affected in the Second World War in Germany was incredible. Not many books have brought me to tears yet this was a heart wrenching story that left me, I hesitate to say, wanting more. The whole novel was truly a work of art. My only regret about this book is that I wish I could have read it sooner.

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