Thursday, August 19, 2010
The Book Thief (Markus Zusak) (6.5/10.0)
The personification of death is the conceit of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, a 2006 work which has received numerous awards in both young adult and general fiction categories and has been the recipient of positive reviews all around. It is death that tells the story of little Liesel Meminger s she struggles to make sense of the harsh words and actions of Nazi Germany under the Fuhrer and their effects on the people that she loves. In Zusak’s conception, death is one part stoic, one part curious, and one part sympathetic. He seems to have taken a unusual interest in Liesel, which he admits happens very rarely, and he follows her—collecting bodies along the way—through the long years of the war and beyond.
I admit that I liked the book as opposed to disliking it, but I found Zusak’s death as two-dimensional as any other representation, meaning that the novelty of the conceit wore off after the first hundred pages or so. And the human characters of the book were not very much more rounded, though it was impossible not to sympathize with orphaned Liesel and her adoptive parents, among others. The most interesting portions of the book for me were those that dealt with the hidden divide in German society during the war years and the mechanisms set up to root out and punish those that would undermine the Fuhrer and the war effort. At more than five hundred pages, I wish the book had included more of this. As it was, it dragged and I really had to struggle to finish it.
To tell you the truth, I really feel guilty about not liking this book more (especially given all the hype surrounding it). Perhaps it is simply a young adult novel from which I expected too much. Perhaps I am simply a bad reader. Or perhaps the book is simply overrated. I assume that most of you must have liked it. What was it that compelled you?