First the colours.
If you haven’t read The Book Thief or if you’re like me and have had it sitting, unopened, on your bookshelf for years then get up, go out and buy it or pluck it from the surrounding titles and read it! This book is just as good as its award-winning reputation, and so much more.
Death is the narrator to this beautifully written story about a fostered girl, Liesel Meminger, during the Second World War in Molching, Germany. Though this sounds morbid and conjures up an image of a shrouded skeleton with a scythe stalking unsuspecting souls, the result, in fact, is surprising.
Death’s individual voice is both empathetic and humorous, littered with personal asides and extra information. Despite the connotations of his status, Death’s narrative takes on an ethereal quality that I’ve never experienced in literature before. The result is that in following his story, the audience are both able to watch the events from a panoramic stance as well as being able to dive into the domestic space and get to really know the characters.
The names Liesel Meminger, Rudy Steiner, Max Vandenburg, and Rosa and Hans Hubermann will stay with you long after the final page has closed. There is always a worry that in a character-centric book, the third person narrative could distance the audience into indifference – especially when we consider that these are ordinary people from a small fictional town in south Germany. But Zusak’s narrator is a character all on his own and brings his subjects to life in the most magical way. These simple characters become absolutely enchanting the longer you know them. Out of the ordinary, comes the extraordinary.
The importance of words and books to Liesel, for she is the Book Thief, becomes just as relevant to the audience in their own reading. The phrasing throughout this book sometimes jumps out from the story and hits you with its simple, lyrical exquisiteness. As a newcomer to the works of Marcus Zusak, his writing and use of words struck me as pure genius:
“How I’d have loved to pull it all down, to screw up the newspaper sky and toss it away.”
“Tall glasses stood on the table. They were filled with crackling liquid.”
“Her nerves licked her palms.”
“Papa’s lungs were full of sky.”
If you want a quick read or a simple premise, The Book Thief will not be the one for you. Far from being overly complicated, convoluted or difficult to read, there is something utterly bewitching about this experimental story. It sucks you in and keeps you for as long as possible, letting you explore every aspect of Zusak’s words and Liesel’s world. I’ve read books that seem to take forever to finish in the worst possible way but I would love getting lost in The Book Thief again and again.