Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Book Thief


What an interesting book on two fronts. One, the way the story was written and narrated. Two, the unique structure of the book. I will explain.

The story is narrated by death. That's interesting right? Even though death is sad, scary, and dark, when Death is given a personality and comments on his daily life it's almost comical. Death is a busy guy, but, sometimes he shows up to appointments early and has a minute or two to observe humans...which he finds interesting. As narrator he pushes the story along by constantly foreshadowing both the long and short view of the novel. The foreshadowing is vague enough that you don't know exactly what is going to happen, but, it peaks one's interest.

The story revolves around Liesel, a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany. Books play a major part in her life. The book stealing starts before she can even read and continues on throughout the book. In the end she only really has a handful of books, since she is so poor. Her life is pretty sad, full of death and poverty, but the books are one of the bright spots. I won't give too much away but a book narrated by death in Nazi Germany during WWII is going to have some characters dying. However, even with all this dark subject matter I didn't find the book depressing. In fact, I found it happy, almost light hearted. Liesel seems to find the positive things in life and the narration, as I've mentioned, is funny in a dark way. This makes for a nice read.

Now, the 'unique' structure of the book. At random points throughout the book there are small facts or lists thrown in. They break in between paragraphs to add much needed information, almost like a footnote. Sometimes Death will even intervene, mid paragraph, to add a tidbit of interesting information. This makes the first few pages a little hard to follow until you get a feel for what the breaks in the prose are all about. After a dozen pages you look forward to the 'attention all reader' bulletins (as I've started calling them). Another level to the book that makes it interesting to read - something different.

I was surprised to find out that this book was from the YA (young adult) section of the library. I'm sure this keeps it off many people's book radar, which is a darn shame because it is so good! The only reason I can see it being put in YA is that the main character is a young teen girl? Very strange. To me, it's like the last couple of Harry Potter books. They should probably be thrown in the adult fantasy section rather than young fiction. Anyway, read it!


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