It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.
I knew I would end up writing a review on a book that I really didn’t like at some point, but I didn’t expect it to be so soon. It took me two weeks to finish this novel and I had to force myself to finish it.
First off, this novel is amazing in its description of detail and the accuracy in which World War II was portrayed. It doesn’t delve in too deep with the specifics of major nights in Germany prior to the start of World War II but I appreciated it. I also enjoyed all of the characters that were introduced, each of them was their own person. Or, at least, I could see their potential to be more than just a flat, one- dimensional character. This again relates back to the intricate descriptions which I appreciated. But that’s just about where good things end.
Things were happening, there wasn’t a single chapter in which the characters were doing nothing. However, because of the detail provided it felt like everything was moving at a glacial pace. Even though months had passed in the span of four of five pages, it felt as if we were reading about a single day. All of the details made for a very slow story without any climax or anything truthfully interesting. Even the supposed climax wasn’t very good because it was so overly detailed.
Moreover, the narrator- Death- was not as interesting a perspective as I thought it would be. I expected Death to be more morbid and he was just average. There was nothing exciting or intriguing about his perspective. The story probably would have been very similar if told from Liesel’s neighbor point of view. There was no real value that the story added when told from Death’s perspective except for when he was picking up dead bodies. And even that was so detailed it became this mundane thing just happened. And that may have been the intent that Zusak wanted- death being a normal, every day thing- the way it was written made death seem like this boring action. Zusak didn’t even really explain how Death managed to watch Liesel for as long as it did without ever coming to take her personally.
Liesel’s book thieving happen wasn’t even a central idea or major issue in the plot. It didn’t really come into play well past the halfway point. And to be honest, I wouldn’t count what she did as “stealing” which implies that she was… uninvited.
Overall, I felt that the entire book had the potential to be an interesting plot but failed to reach the bar. Despite my love for description, Zusak utilized far too much and slowed the plot down to a point where the end always felt so far. And he didn’t utilize the perspective in a way that could have made the entire plot more striking or though provoking. I would only recommend this book to die-hard historical fiction fans who want a very slow read or who want a book that they can put down often without feeling like their missing something.
Have you guys read The Book Thief? What did you think?