With a nod to my boyfriend’s book reviewing technique (seen at A World in Words) and in the hopes of presenting a short, spoiler-free snippet of review for those that don’t want any details revealed prior to reading a novel, I’m slightly altering how I do my reviews. You’ll see what I mean, hopefully, below.
Spoiler-free Snippet Review
The Book Thief tells the tale of a young girl in Nazi Germany who loves books. As one might expect (because of the setting), the novel is full of both happy and sad moments. Though the story-telling style is a bit odd and jarring at first, it becomes easy enough to understand, especially as the characters make you want to keep reading. The story jumps around and reveals information in an odd way at times, but it all works in a unique way to both blunt and sharpen the pain and joy of the world in which Liesel resides. In all, I would definitely mark this book as READ.
Here, There Be Spoilers
The Book Thief was suggested to me by a friend from work who has pretty good taste in books and likes history. I picked it up from my library without really knowing what it was about, other than World War II and books. I am very pleased to have read it for many reasons, but the main is that it provides an excellent look a humanity stretched to the brink of survival, with all the grey areas of good and evil laid bare in the muck of living.
It’s pretty obvious from the onset of the book that the narrator is some incarnation of Death, a reaper of souls. After a pretty abstract and almost absurdly poetic look at sky colors and their distractible nature, the narrator tells the reader of his encounter with the book thief and obtaining her autobiography. After this, the novel jumps around to the point of view of several people; however, it does so in a fluid manner that isn’t overly jarring.
One very interesting aspect of this story is that you get an inside look at what it was like to live in Germany during the height of Hitler’s reign. I’ve read and seen many things written from the point of view of a concentration camp survivor or soldier, but I hadn’t seen what it was like to be a German citizen just trying to survive. This was what, in my opinion, added such a human element to the story. Liesel’s family survives by staying under the radar, even as her adopted father toes the line again and again. Living in fear will make humans do many things.
Liesel learns that there is good and bad in everyone, and sees several examples of this duality around her town. It’s great to see her grow up as a sort of German Scout Finch, where each new event triggers a new outlook on life coupled with a love and hate for words.
The power of words is also shown to be of utmost import in this work, which I really enjoyed. It shows how Hitler was able to lift up his followers with words, which I think is a pretty important lesson. Liesel writes down her own story in order to give power to her existence, and Max is able to write a simple story to show Liesel how important she was to him.
In all, The Book Thief reminds us that there is light in the dark, and dark in the light, and that neither is mutually exclusive. Though the style was a bit rough to get used to at first, the story is definitely worth the read. I would definitely put this in the READ category.