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The Classics Companion

I have a (small) obsession with books and tv shows. Proud geek.

The Book Thief

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak I was very weary of reading this book. While odd narration/narrators has proved amazing in several books, it has let many books down in my opinion. *cough* Gatsby *cough*. Hence, when hearing that this was narrated by Death himself, I was slightly put off, but at the same time intrigued. Reading the first few pages of the Prologue made me cautious. The odd little facts that Death puts in the middle of the narration I found odd at first, but this quickly changed. It was different yes, but added far more depth to the narrator compared to what I expected.

First off, this book is very poignant, very beautifully written, and very, very heartbreaking. You get attached easily. You fall in love with Liesel and her innocent journey to understanding the power of books and words. You even, perhaps, pity Death. The knowledge that a man (if he can be described as that), has to look into the faces of dying people and lift up their souls, all day, every day, almost breaks you. Death comes across not as malicious, but an entity that looks on at the world, and wondering how so much death was caused, all because of one man. Hitler.

It's setting, is both in the background and the forefront of the narration. At first, there is only very subtle mentions of the rising power of Hitler and the Nazis. As you go through the book, you get the narration by Death, who is like an omniscient, old grandfather. Who looks on and sees the world destroying itself, and he's the one who picks up after it all. But you also get the innocent story of Liesel, who comes to terms with the harsh reality of the world, while staying in the imaginary universe of her stolen books. It makes the events even more harrowing, as you see two version of it: the narrator's view, and the story itself. The simple, childish acts like discouraging your friend from kissing you, and Death's knowledge that everything doesn't turn out well, leaves you with plenty of emotions. You laugh, you pity the characters, you hate some characters, you smile, you frown, you cry. It's a book that, while labelled as a Young Adult book, holds so much emotion in it that you expect it to be an adult book.

I think for me, it was the writing style that really made me love this book. Some quotes are just amazing, yet so simple that it makes you remember them forever. While it's technically in first person, narrated by Death, it almost comes across as third person. The main story is about Liesel, not Death, yet you get little insights from Death that makes the writing style amazing. You hear part of Death's story, his views of the characters and his views on the world around him, picking up bodies one by one.

I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”

I don't know what I was expecting from this book. I'd read a short description beforehand, and I knew there is a film coming out in Jan 2014. Other than that, I knew practically nothing. Usually, I do a lot of research on books, especially when I'm reading classics, but I didn't feel the urge to. Even though I was weary, I persevered. I went on. Because I knew it could be another life-changing book. Cliché, I know, but there are books that stick with you. And this one has stuck.