Markus Zusak – The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is narrated by Death.

I suspect it’s pretty much the first thing anyone will tell you about the novel. It’s a well-crafted story about a young girl who lives with foster carers in Munich during the Second World War, but it could have so easily done without Death narrating it.

I’m not adverse to something a bit out of the box, I suppose I just feel that this particular linguistic device was a marketing tool rather than something key to moving the novel forward.

The story flowed well, with Zusak showing great skill in the character development of Liesel, but my enjoyment was slightly stunted by the appearance of Death being all whimsical about what he had seen elsewhere on his other worldly travels. People say ‘kill your darlings’ and I think Death was Zusak’s darling.

It must also be enormously difficult to write about events retrospectively and fictionally. However, the use of phrases such as the ‘final solution’ when Lisal first meets her carers gives away the authors knowledge of historical context, which at this point is still in the future. It dilutes the way Zusak otherwise very much takes you back to 1930/40’s Munich.

Overall I believe the book is worth of all its plaudits and I would recommend it, because much like the Harry Potter series, it wonderful story telling even if it’s not brilliantly written. I much more enjoyed a personal look into the lives of a people so often over looked by history, the civilians of Germany who weren’t supporters of Nazism.