Wednesday, April 25, 2012
THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak
Death narrates the tale of a German girl during World War II. She likes to steal books.
This story is a love letter to words in content as well as form. The main character arrives in an unassuming German town unable to read, and throughout the story she discovers the dignity and passion that the written word can provide. The usual World War II themes are present in this book, but the connections that develop between people through the act of reading are particularly powerful. Language can save and destroy, and the author explores this theme with poetry and compassion.
The narrative is not strictly linear, and it took me a little while to get into the book. Using Death as a narrator seems gimmicky at first, but the character actually provides a take on the tragic events of the period that is both poignant and refreshing. He insists on giving away details about the ending from the very beginning, so the reader's focus is on the souls of the characters, not on the plot points. The ending still managed to bring me to tears right in the middle of the MTR.
This story is special because of the language. Zusak has a gift for playing with words in a loving, surprising manner. The unexpected metaphors and sophisticated anthropomorphisms force you to pay attention to Zusak's imagery. He does have a tendency to overuse sentence fragments and odd, capitalized declarations. I know this is intended to emphasize powerful statements and images, but reading too many of these punctuated moments can be exhausting. They start to lose their impact. Overall, the real power of Zusak's language comes from the joy of invention and play that comes out in the writing.
The UK website for this book is quite snazzy.
$9.99 for the Kindle edition
When is a time when you've seen reading bring people together? Are there other writers you enjoy who use unconventional forms or narrative techniques?