November online ebook club wrap-up – The Book Thief

Cyan Magenta Yellow BlackIf I love a book, I usually avoid reading it twice out of fear that age and life experience will prompt me to hate it on the second reading. So I knew I was taking a risk in setting The Book Thief as our November online ebook club book of the month. I first read this when it was released in 2006 and loved it. I finished it for the second time last night and surprisingly loved it just as much, but for slightly different reasons.

For those that don’t know, The Book Thief is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl growing up with foster parents in Germany during World War II. Liesel is almost illiterate when she first arrives in the fictional town of Molching but is taught to read by her ‘Papa’. This leads to a love of words and some book thievery. Liesels’ world is soon turned upside-down with the arrival of a young Jewish man in her street.

When I read it in my early twenties I was fascinated by the use of Death as a narrator and the beautiful way author Markus Zusak uses words and metaphors. The book doesn’t move fast, but it is written in a style I could indulge in for hours without getting bored. I’ve since read many criticisms of the narrator and Zusak’s writing style but I found I could still appreciate it. I think this appreciation is born out of a love of slightly quirky, off-beat writing. I also don’t think Zusak could have represented the contradictory nature of human’s quite so well without Death’s outsider observations of them.

I found on the second reading, I felt a greater emotional attachment to the characters and a greater understanding of the underlying issues. In a sense, this is almost a coming-of-age story. We spend most of it watching the way Liesel grows and learns more about the world that she lives in as she develops a love of reading. However, most coming-of-age stories do not end the way this does. I will not spoil it for those that haven’t read it, however I did find it interesting that Death actually reveals some of the ending mid-way through the novel. This effectively leaves the reader with a sense of dread and you almost want to warn the characters of what is coming.

The Book Thief in a sense, is also an exploration of words and the way they are used for both good and evil. It is proposed that Hitler would have been nothing without his words and to an extent I agree with this. Almost all forms of hatred are spread via words. We are also reminded however, that words can be used for good and I think this might be the point that Max tries to make in his story The Word Shaker.

I could write so much more about this book but I’d like to hear what you think?

Did you love it or hate it?

What do you think of Death as the narrator?

Have you seen the movie, and if so does it adequately represent the book?

Please leave a comment to share your thoughts.