The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

Initial Thoughts:

I’ve been big on the young adult genre lately.  Appropriately, The Book Thief is a book in the young adult target.  I’ve also been more drawn towards fantasy, science fiction, adventures, hidden worlds… with a side dish of romance.


The Book Thief isn’t a book I would normally take on nowadays.  This book seems to be a “made for deep analysis” type of book.  I’m of the “I’m tired of deep thinking” type, because I’d rather read something and simply express whether or not I liked it and why.  High school already took us through the analysis of books, dissecting and manipulating phrases, scenes, characters, etc… just to determine whether or not we really know what an author is truly trying to present.  


In the end, you're not even sure whether or not the author truly had deep meaning messages behind his or her writings.


That’s not for me anymore.


My BFF, however is interested in this book and was determined to choose it as part of our “Mini Book Club” selection.  I’m sure it fascinates her because she likes inspiration pieces and the like.  There’s no doubting that it fascinates me as well; the entire premise is interesting.


Those were my initial thoughts before reading The Book Thief.  For some, stubborn reason, I always feel the need to read these types of books as if I’m going to be graded on a college level essay.  It’s a point of pride that I don’t like sounding stupid doing one of few things I truly love to do: discussing books.  However, I know it can’t be helped.  Everyone takes something different away from a book and I'll admit that my take-aways aren't always well-informed or researched.


But these following thoughts came to me as I neared the ending of the book.


Who cares if I can’t analyze every symbolic detail presented in The Book Thief?  This book was enjoyable and memorable, all in itself.  It’s unique and entertaining, conveying a monotonously dank, dark mood that just hangs there without even trying.  It's a book about a tragic moment in history, told from a perspective different from what I'm familiar with.  It's a powerful book that details a simple fact in life that despite there being a bigger picture unfolding all around the world, life for the common everyday person still has to just keep moving forward.  Life goes on.


This is a story wherein a little girl goes through her own life with global events being the last thing on her mind; yet at the same time, the effects of those global events (Hitler's rise, the war, etc...) still sting on a personal level.


Most importantly, I DID enjoy reading this book very much.  In a simply put fashion, as I’d already mentioned.  I just really, really liked this book and the story of the book thief.


Now if only I could start off reading all of my books with this mindset; because, frankly, who cares what anyone else thinks?  My opinion is my opinion.  Right?

What I liked:

The writing style and format was different from what I’m used to (aside from the fact that the majority of YA fiction tends to be written in first person, a fact that irks me just a little bit).


This thought came to me at some point during my reading: The format reminds me of a graphic novel, told in words rather than pictures, but where the pictures are still rather vivid even without the illustrations.  In fact, it reminded me of Japanese manga, for some reason (though I’m not certain what that reason is).


The story is told in an almost third person omniscient view where Death is the narrator, but most of the story rarely comes around to Death referring to himself too often.  And so it seems to present itself more in third person with a “tale telling” air about it.  I don’t know if any of that makes any sense, but to me, it gave off a rather whimsical feel… in spite of the dark, melancholic background of the story’s setting.


The writing conveyed vivid detail, as I already mentioned.  Even while seemingly detached from the book’s story and characters, you can still feel what the characters feel and see what the characters see.  The descriptions were excellent.


The “FEELS”....  Yea, they were there alright.

What I’m unsure of:

Everything about this book gives me serious conflicting feelings despite the feels.  The reason being: It’s just hard to put into words the strange feelings going through my mind when I’m reading this book.  I’m conflicted in that, I know this is a depressing setting, a depressing story, a depressing time frame…  There’s tragedy, tension, danger and so many other things going on.  I mean, this is a time of war and depression (for the lack of a better descriptor).  But I’m not as caught up in all the emotions my mind is telling me I should be feeling.


I am concerned with Liesel's everyday dealings and how, even though there's a war going on and people dying, Liesel's life seems fairly normal for a young child growing up.  I am concerned with Liesel's growth through her learning to read and write, becoming attached to the written word, as well as through her interactions with her foster parents and the Jewish man hidden in their basement.  I am also concerned with Liesel's interactions with her friends and the people around her.  I am concerned with how Liesel manages to slowly survive through her nightmares and the misery that left her orphaned.


This book truly is quite character driven.


There are small details and random scenes that manage to make me really feel what I believe I should be feeling.  Those moments are so strangely random and fleeting.


There’s a detachment from the story and the characters that gives me a feeling of “watching a story unfold as a story” rather than “living out the story with the story”... if that makes any sense.  I know that this book should be triggering some sort of melancholic feeling in me, but I don’t necessarily feel it until there’s mention of the death of a precious, main character you’ve gotten to know.  There is no element of surprise in this book (which works well for the way it's written), and so you know there's more death coming and it gives you a sense of dread.  But then the scene changes so abruptly, the subject moves on, and you’re stuck not quite able to gather what emotions were supposed to be there in the first place.

Final Thoughts:

So there it is.  This is why I have so many conflicted feelings about this book.  Yet at the same time, I’m truly in love with the way it was written, the dark, twisted humor, the melancholic atmosphere… and even the scattering of characters who grow on you, even if not entirely in an emotionally attached way.


I’ve written so many notes and copied down so many quotes from the book.  There were a lot of moments that touched on a rather beautiful image.  There were heartwarming moments that made you smile and finally feel like you're living the story.  And I will admit, there was actually a moment in which my stone, cold heart clenched at the sadness and I shed a few tears.  


In the end, I’m sure that there are no proper words to describe my true feelings for this book.


I liked it.  It may not be the best book I’ve ever read, but it certainly comes close to being wonderful.  So I really really liked it.  It’s as simple as that.





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