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The Book Thief


Markus Zusak

The Book Thief
average rating is 3 out of 5

Fiction, War

R. Alex Jenkins

You know the type of book you grab at the first opportunity and can't let go of? Or the other type of book that you delay reading, procrastinate over and find other things to do instead? This is the latter. It reads like a WW2 drama with curious intrusions from Mr. Death himself.

Sometimes books don't live up to the hype. A sort of bestseller syndrome, maybe; the more you rave, market and sell copies, the less interesting the content can actually be. If it’s enjoyed by the mainstream it can then be universally accepted as good. This is 'good'.

Essentially, this is a nice book and a decent story that happens to take place in Nazi Germany. It’s also kind of average, uneventful and rather boring. WW2 and Nazi Germany feel like distractions rather than important events, in a book mostly about regular people and kids growing up and facing difficulties in that war-torn era.

Jews were massacred and atrocities were committed, battles were fought, bombs were dropped and people were killed en masse, but not very much of that happens regularly in this book, although Mr. Death alludes to it constantly.

Mr. Death is the Grim Reaper, the Narrator. One of the MAIN characters.

Annoying, smug, regularly throwing down spoilers, telling us that something happened instead of actually writing about it. Rather pointless and annoying narration instead of compulsive storytelling. Joking about death like family banter in the living room.

I wanted Death to bog off, or finally take me, and stop naffing around in that strangely aloof, staccato and unappealing way.

And the adult women characters behave like nasty Nazi foul-mouthed frauleins, no thank you very much, don't you dare spit on my front door or constantly refer to other people as pigs. Is that behaviour supposed to make you luv ‘em more because they actually care?

And the dictionary definitions and translations? More like filler!

Please stop using "drop sheet".

Definition: A protective sheet used by painters.

I bought this book expecting REALITY, but got weird humour and soap opera scenarios. I was anticipating wars, battles, torture maybe, plus harrowing accounts of life in concentration camps, but instead got a family drama in a little German town with occasional Nazis and Jews in it.

And nobody, I repeat, NOBODY, called football "soccer" back then in Nazi Germany.

This is a disappointing read, even more so because I was expecting so much. In the diary of Anne Frank there's an underlying sense of fear throughout, not because it's particularly well written (it’s her diary) but because of the true facts expressed. Those things really happened to her. The main character here, Liesel, is a lovely girl, but I rarely felt my heart go out to her or any concern at her plight. The book does get richer as it progresses as you get to know the characters, but could easily be set in Russia or in mediaeval England in King Arthur's court, or in downtown Colchester with equal amounts of oppression, poverty and depression. This could be a less-well-written novel by D.H. Lawrence based on colliery life around the coal mines in Sheffield. It could be based anywhere.

When not a lot happens you need to be a brilliant writer like the aforementioned D.H. Lawrence.

Instead, this feels like a wasted opportunity to use the terrors and possibilities of Nazi Germany, nor is it hard-hitting enough and rarely sets a scintillating pace.

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