The book is set in Germany in the years 1939-1943, the escalation of World War II. The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel, narrated by Death who has in his possession the book she wrote about these years. The story focuses on Liesel’s relationship with her foster parents, the other residents in their neighborhood, and a young Jewish man who hides in her home.
I get it. I get why people love this book and I have no doubt it’s going to be a new “classic”. However, despite the hype, I didn’t like it.
The story itself was fine in comparison to other books during the same time such as Night by Elie Wiesel and The Pianist. The biggest problem I had though were with the characters.
Now in order for me to enjoy a book, I have to be able to connect with the characters. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t do that with this book. Between the dark and gloomy despair of the situation, the closed-off nature of the characters, and the distracting wit of the narrator, I just felt it hindered my ability to connect with characters. For example, I liked Death. I thought it was brilliant that he was narrating the story and it felt very new and fresh. I thought he was a good narrator at first, as I was laughing when it was appropriate to laugh and feeling sad when it was appropriate for that as well. But at the story kept going, Death refused to build up and add any mystery to the story. It prevented me from having any relationship with the characters as I was constantly reminded that these characters were going to eventually die. Ultimately, it was Death that robbed me of the ending that I was so desperately looking for.
Also, I felt the writing was a bit silly and just worked against the story. It was more difficult to read than it should have been. It was filled with weird metaphors (“the greying light arm-wrestled the sky.”) and phrases that just frustrated me (“There were heavy beams – planks of sun – falling randomly, wonderfully, onto the road.”)
Overall the book was dissatisfying which is a shame because I had such high hopes for it. I guess that goes to show that expectations are dangerous.
So tell me, what did you think of The Book Thief? Like it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments below