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Book Review: The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

Recommended. Though fatalistic, there is a lot to be learned from Zusak’s haunting tale of a brave, poor street of people trapped in Nazi Germany.

I’ll start with the negatives. Both the beginning and the middle of this book frustrated me. The beginning, because I had no prior knowledge of the book at all, and I grew impatient trying to determine who in the world this odd narrator was (by book’s end, however, these beginning pages were a quick and rewarding re-read). The middle, because the book is long, its worldview is fatalistic, and Zusak does not take his reader by the hand, gently guiding them sequentially through the plot. Readers take a jarring trip back and forth through time, being lurched from one startling image to the next, and the whole thing is reigned over by a god who is silent.

But let me emphasize that, at the book’s resolution, I was devastated to see it go. Partly, this is because of the tragedy inherent in any honest look at Nazi Germany. One aspect of this book that I like is that it’s characters are Germans in Nazi Germany. Readers meet youths who are bored with Hitler Youth meetings, and German citizens who are ostracized for not embracing the Nazi party.

Also, Zusak’s writing is a study of figurative language. An English teacher could probably use any single page in this book as a “find the figurative language” exercise, yet at times Zusak’s ubiquitous metaphors, similes, and sensory detail juxtapositions are disorienting. However, on the whole this lends The Book Thief another layer of enjoyment.

Though at times the reading of this book felt like a chore, I received one of the  bigger literary payoff’s that I can remember from page 500 on. If you’re ready to put in what at times feels like work, get ready to be rocked by The Book Thief.

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About davestuartjr
Dave Stuart Jr. is a full-time teacher who writes about becoming better, saner teachers at TeachingtheCore.com. He is a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to Crystal, and a father to Hadassah, Laura, and Marlena.

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