Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief - Header

As I said in my Mother’s review of NW by Zadie Smith, she is part of a monthly book club; each month reading a novel before gathering for teas, coffee and a discussion about whether they liked it, hated it, or even managed to finish it. This time around, the book of choice was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, giving my Mother an interesting angle from which to base her film because, back in March she came with me to see the film and so can now compare the two…

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this book having seen the film but it was this month’s choice at the book club I attend so I dived straight in and I’m very glad I did.

The film follows the life of Leisel Meminger, the book thief, from January 1939 to July 1943 almost to the letter and mirrors the slow pace of the book. The book uses her life as a sub plot to show the reader the state of Germany and its people, their fears and hopes, the poverty and the blind obedience but it also shows the cruelty to those not considered of the master race and the waste of human life that occurred. This is done through the eyes of the narrator whose path crosses Leisel’s from time to time, while the majority of his time he is immensely busy taking care of all the souls of the dead. The narrator is a spiritual being but his story is extremely moving and thought provoking. You feel sorry for Leisel and everything that happens to her and her friends and family although the narrator does tell the reader, very briefly, what happened next.

The Book Thief - Book Review - Markus Zusak

The book is separated into eleven parts with several different chapters within each part. Each chapter is a short story in itself taking a different part of Leisel’s life with the narrator then filling in the period between each chapter so there was a seamless transition over the whole year. The film made each of these chapters into the film but somehow the time scale between each chapter was lost making it a little difficult to follow. The author uses different fonts, pictures, quotes from other books to break up the writing otherwise the book would have become a bit monotonous as it is a very long book but certainly one that you cannot stop reading.

I can understand that it would have been virtually impossible to make the film using the narrator as the focal character so taking the sub plot of Leisel Meminger and her life was the only way a film could be made but a lot of the book was lost by doing this. He is the most important part of the book as it is through his eyes that we are given the story.

I found the book very intriguing in that the slow pace meant that from time to time I got fed up and put it aside thinking it was beginning to bore me but very shortly afterwards was drawn to pick it up again and read on. By the end I was so hooked that I was actually disappointed that it had finished.

I was told that the book was a nine out of ten and the film a six to seven. I would certainly concur with this assessment.

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

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