I’ve never read a book narrated by death before, and I certainly never would have expected death to show compassion, or cleverness. But that is one of the many surprises in Aussie author Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.
The book is set in Nazi Germany in a little town close to Dachau. Having visited the Dachau concentration camp a few years back, visualizing the setting was all too easy for me, not to mention incredibly eerie. The Book Thief follows a young German girl (the actual book thief, as she soon becomes), who is taken in by adoptive German parents, both of whom don’t see eye to eye with Nazi views. We read on as the girl develops relationships in her poor yet social neighborhood and tremble as the protagonist struggles to read, write, and survive solely on soup. Still, she is far better off than many others during WWII.
As the tale progresses, the girls family takes in a runaway Jewish man, and he lives in their basement in hiding. This is where the story really picks up as the girl begins her friendship with the Jewish man.
Now, I have read a lot of World War two novels before; Man’s Search for Meaning, Night, The Diary of Anne Frank and Dawn, to name a few, but I have never read a fictional story that focuses on a German family’s perspective during the Nazi regime. It was a completely different point of view, and of course the story being narrated by death also aids that fact, and I enjoyed it immensely. It was terrifying, emotional, upsetting, loving, thought-provoking and funny; Zusak truly captures the art of storytelling.
I don’t want to give anything away for those who haven’t read it, so I have decided to list a few quotes that I felt the need to highlight as I was reading. I hope these quotes will inspire your own writing and/or art form, or at least encourage you to read an incredible story.
A Handful of Significant and Well-Written Quotes from The Book Thief:
“Handing souls to the conveyor belt of eternity.” (Doesn’t that paint such a vivid picture?)
“You see? Even death has a heart.” (The compassion the narrator has; the line delivered so eloquently).
“Standing above him at all moments of awareness was the hand of time, and it didn’t hesitate to wring him out. It smiled and squeezed and let him live. What great malice there could be in allowing something to live.” (Brilliant. Simply brilliant).
“On the other hand, you’re a human – you should understand self-obsession.” (The narrators note to the reader; how true for human beings.)
“The colder he became, the more he melted.” (I just love this visual).
“For some reason, dying men always ask questions they know the answer to. Perhaps it’s so they can die being right.” (Again, the narrator is witty, cunning, and dark. He is death, after all).
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I plan on seeing it soon with my nanny (grandma). Feel free to drop me a line with your thoughts on The Book Thief. If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly suggest you get on it.