The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
A review by editor Jessica Wilson-Smith
Despite classified as a “young adult” novel, Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief is anything but that. Set in WWII Germany, the novel is painstakingly structured to cause as much heart-ache in the reader as possible and still be a work of utter beauty. Un-like the film adaptation, the novel’s main character is actually Death itself not Liesel.
On the first page you are introduced to Death as the narrator of the story, however unlike some kind of harsh Hades or Grim Reaper character, Death is constructed as a gentle presence, one that feels sympathy. While some would say that Death’s narration is long and tiresome, I personally found it to be beautiful. Death’s descriptions of war were unlike anything I had ever read in the multitude of war poetry I was forced to consume in year 12 English Literature. Simple statements Death makes, such as, “It kills me sometimes, how people die.” Is what I believe that makes the book so incredible. The use of irony and imagery has been so well crafted to work together; you’re left with an overwhelming feeling of awe. Zusak’s construction of Death gives the reader a beautiful juxtaposition, when compared to the harsh realities of the other main character’s journey.
Liesel Meminger is the little girl that the novel follows. From the beginning it is Death whom narrates her life. It is Liesel who gives the novel it’s heart, for a reader unable to connect with an idea of Death can connect to the struggles of the orphaned little german girl. It is her life and the characers she grows to love that gives the novel it’s comedic relief, it’s heartache and it’s power. I believe it’s Liesel’s both innocence and awareness that draws us in. A girl who doesn’t know how to read and yet understands so much about death, after watching her brother die- don’t fret, that’s not a spoiler, I wouldn’t do that to you.
Overall this novel has joined my very short list of books that have changed my life. While it is long, and can be slow to get into I implore you to stick at it, because you will not regret this read. Filled with so many thought-provoking passages, you can’t help but feel, “… haunted by humans.”