Zusak: The Book Thief (2006)

As of this writing there are 747 review/reflection of Markus Zusak‘s “The Book Thief” at LibraryThing.com and it is in the library of 11876 people. What else can I say that wasn’t already said? Probably not much. So here are just a few basic bullet points of my impressions:

  • The idea of having a compassionate death as the narrator was surprising, felt gimmicky, but ultimately found useful.
  • The typologically different (boldfaced and centered) lines representing Death’s thoughts were also effective in the sense that they stopped the flow of the reading long enough to elicit a separate reaction.
  • The page numbers weer printed in some barely legible distraught font. That bothered me.
  • The protagonist girl, the book thief herself, had great character development; really enjoyed how she evolved from being abandoned, to being the subject of tough love, to being taught reading and becoming the protector of a man hiding in their basement.
  • I loved the idea of painting over Hitler’s book with white and creating a new and loving story on the pages. I didn’t like that the palimpsest showed that the book used was an English version of Mein Kampf and not German. This minor detailed caused its credibility in my eyes.
  • I liked how the accordion carried over multiple families and music literally meant life and livelihood.
  • I was a bit confused about the story within the story of the man who stood over. But even my confusion was a good one, because it made me wonder what it might mean.
  • I found it interesting that the publisher decided it should be a book for teenagers and marketed as such. I have no problems of them reading it. Indeed the juxtaposition of the life of an 11 year old during the war to that of teens in today’s Western society will teach them important lessons about themselves. But the book is great for adults too.
  • I wholeheartedly agree with the book’s message that words have tremendous power. They can, were, are and will be used both for good and evil.

These are the main points I recall now, 6 weeks after I finished the book. It was a unique both in its style and in its subject matter. A version of the latter having been covered by thousands of books in the past it is quite a feat. I am glad I read it.

The book @ Amazon.com.

Enjoy an interview with the author:

2 thoughts on “Zusak: The Book Thief (2006)

  1. Podium

    “I didn’t like that the palimpsest showed that the book used was an English version of Mein Kampf and not German. This minor detailed caused its credibility [sic] in my eyes.”
    I personally disagree, the translated version allowed for words to show through; and for the differing meanings of the two texts to be confronted simultaneously.
    See: http://tinyurl.com/3nna6fl

  2. Gabor

    I read your analysis of the palimpsest and agree with it. I doubt though that many readers would actually try to read/focus on the actual words of the (English) Mein Kampf in this book. Your analysis is spot on about the metaphor and parallels of the stories involved. But for the metaphor to work the author could have used the original, German version. In my eyes that would have been more authentic. (Disclaimer: I know a bit of German.)


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