Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Published: 2007 Knopf
Read For: Book Club 1 & Book Club 2
My Rating: 3.75 stars
This is the review in which I get to apologize for not liking a book as much as I feel I'm supposed to. I've actually delayed writing about it, because I wish I had my feelings figured out a bit better.
In my mind, this books exists as two disparate stories: that of Liesel and her German foster parents in Nazi Germany (a fabulously executed look at an often neglected point of view,) and that of Death's opinion on what it is to be human and see the elusive big picture. I loved hearing about Liesel. I loved how well you get to know her and Hans, Rosa, and Rudy. It really is a unique treat to come to care for the characters as much as you do in this book. On the other hand, Death remains aloof. Even though he is the narrator--the character with whom we spend the most time--I never stopped being irritated at his voice and confused about who he really was and how he really did what he did.
I don't have a problem with abstract or random ideas in a book, generally speaking. (For example, I was just fine with the whole chair incident in The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.) But for some reason the character of Death seemed underdeveloped and a bit gimmicky to me. Parts of the book seemed very well written, while other parts seemed silly. For example, Rudy had "gangly blue eyes". Mama sat "scaredly". And a book is described as "numb and gratified, like a beautiful itch". Those peculiar descriptions, as well as Death's constant "spoilers" just didn't work for me. They pulled me out of the story and had me thinking about the writing process, authorial intent, and themes...completely forgetting that I had been in the middle of reading a story.
So I understand that Death being a withdrawn, detached, impersonal character is a good representation of death's role in our lives. That isn't the issue. I get the symbolism. I just didn't enjoy it. I honestly wish that I could extract Liesel's story and separate it from Death's interjections and keep it as a shining snapshot of the beauty that exists in each of us, but we can't take death out of the human picture, can we? Regardless of how untimely, irritating, or impersonal it might be, no matter how much we'd like to remove it from life...life wouldn't be life without death.
So there you have it. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the writing style, and the effectiveness in using Death as a narrator...meanwhile, I'll be sitting here in the oddball corner, shamefacedly looking for friends.