Friday, 6 May 2011

The Book Thief - book review

The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak

Ok, I will be up front about this book - its a cracking read.

The book is narrated by Death which is an unusual perspective, but in this instance I would have to say the Death is very non partisan (no devilish Grim Reaper complete with cloak, scythe and a malignant attitude here). He is there to do a job, which is carrying souls away from their dead bodies and its a job which keeps him busy! The book offers no insight into where he may be taking the souls, but whatever his destination, he attempts to carry the souls with as much dignity and compassion as he can muster.

But the story isn't about Death, or death, although there is plenty of it about during Germany during the second world war when the tale is set. The story chronicles the sad approach to the Jews, but from a not quite Jewish perspective. But this is no holocaust story either.

Maybe the story is about Liesel Meminger, an orphan who is taken in by a family on the outskirts of Munich. She is certainly the central character around which the tale is constructed, and she is indeed the Book Thief whose progress through adolescence is watched by Death from his unique all seeing vantage point. But somehow the story isn't really about Liesel either.

The story is about books. Or to be more precise, the story is about the power of the word. It's power to shape mind of a previously illiterate girl, the power to free the imagination of the prisoner, but also the power to enslave and manipulate an entire nation. This contrast is encapsulated on the use way the pages of a copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf are painted over and recycled into a beautiful hand made book made my a Jew in hiding offering a very different perspective of his own particular struggle.

It's a tale which both terribly sad but also uplifting, which portrays the worst of the human race, but also offers glimpses of the loveliness we can attain. Perhaps most of all, the book has the power to leave the reader sharing Death's observation that he is "Haunted by Humans". 

Immerse yourself on the power of these words and you will emerge at the other side a different, and probably slightly better person.


MortimerBones said...

Isn't it BRILLIANT!!!! I LOVED this book

Captain Ahab said...

Bones We seem to share a taste in books

MortimerBones said...

I think we do!!!