I’ve been hearing for years that I had to read The Book Thief, so when I received it as a birthday gift in November from one of my friends, I was very excited. I’d asked for this book specifically, so I’m very thankful I got it, but I must say, I was disappointed by the book. Maybe my expectations were too high from hearing so many people recommend it, but unfortunately, I didn’t see the book as having the many merits people had described to me, and I was quite happy to be finished with it.
In my opinion, Zusak tries to accomplish too much in this novel. Not only is he taking on the subject of Nazi Germany, but he does this with Death as the novel’s narrator. I felt like these were two interesting ideas that should have been done in separate novels, not in one. The narrative style often made me feel too far removed from Liesel Meminger and her family and friends. I would have much preferred if Liesel had narrated the book herself; I thought she was an interesting character, and this would have removed many of the scenes and digressions told from Death’s point-of-view that were, in my opinion, unnecessary.
On that same note, I also felt like the book was too long. If Death were removed, though, this problem might be remedied, since many of the parts I found unnecessary were those when Death spoke to readers directly about his life. I was much more interested in what Liesel was doing, so I found these sections to be annoying since they distracted from the main action in the story.
I only found myself very interested by three or four of the characters; I felt like Rosa was far too much of a one note character, and Rudy bored me for the majority of the novel. One scene I really liked, though, was one at the end of the novel when Liesel is momentarily reunited with Max, the Jew her family had harbored in their basement earlier in the novel. This was a sweet and moving scene, so I at least appreciated that. However, another thing that really irked me about Death’s narration was that, in the final scenes, he told readers who would be dying at the conclusion of the novel just a few pages before it actually happened. Why it was necessary to spoil this, I don’t know. As far as I’m concerned, this preview only took away from the poignancy of the deaths themselves, so I was a bit bored by the time I actually reached them.
Overall, this definitely wasn’t one of my favorite things I’ve read recently, but I’m still interested to see the film adaptation that came out last year. On to the next project!