The book thief by Markus Zusak

   Chris  Review by:  Chris

Title:  The book thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Collection:  Audiobook


I had heard a good deal of buzz about this book but knew very little about it.  I knew that it is set in Nazi Germany with Death as the narrator, includes something about a family hiding a Jewish man in their basement, and focuses on the power of words and stories to help one young girl make it through the horrors of World War II.  As a devotee to storytelling in all its forms, but particularly through the written word, this was enough to convince me to read it.  I, in turn, convinced my wife, so we listened to the audiobook on a recent road trip.  It made the hours of the journey fly by, often making us reluctant to leave the car at the end of the day, but whether actively listening to it or not, it is clear that the story will not soon leave us.

My first impression was that I didn’t much care for Death’s narrative style.  He (it?) frequently breaks into the story with tales of his own woes, and his constant foreshadowing annoyed me more than a little.  I imagine that some people will like the book precisely because of the narrative technique, but I am not one of them.  As I became more engrossed in the main plot, I just wanted to get on with it.  I disliked the digressions and glimpses at what lay in the future.  In retrospect, though, I now see that Death’s intrusions provide a larger context for the events of the story, which mostly take place on a single street in a small town outside of Munich.  Beyond this first impression, the story gripped me in several ways.  The characters are at times funny and at times endearing so that I began to like them tremendously and feel for them greatly.  It had never occurred to me that there were undoubtedly Germans who did not support Hitler, and I certainly never bothered to imagine what life must have been like for these dissenters in a Germany controlled by the Nazis.  But perhaps the element that I enjoyed most was Zusak’s use of language.  Not only does he include enough German phrases and concepts to give the book a real sense of place, but he also uses verbs and images in a way that gives commonplace actions new meaning.  And of course, when considering an audiobook, one cannot ignore the significance of the reader.  Allan Corduner really embodies the various roles.  His German is clipped and staccato when called for and soft and kind when necessary.  In addition, Death’s proper British accent lends him an air of gentility that plays well with his long-suffering personality.  It seems that Corduner strikes just the right tone in each instance to give the story voice without diminishing it or overwhelming it.

One Response to The book thief by Markus Zusak

  1. Pingback: Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak | My Seryniti

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