Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak
Published: Black Swan 2007

I referred the other day to this being in my top five novels of all time so a review is necessary. It is one of those books I would never have managed at 25 pages a night but on holiday read the whole thing in two days. Must diary more reading time, and not just for theology.

When someone buys you a book and says 'I think you will like this' it is a risky gift. Far beyond the £7.99 or whatever is a willingnes to be hurt - the book may never be read. Or read and hated. This book was a thank-you gift from a colleague I spent a few months reading books with as a training arrangement. I waited before reading. I needed to enjoy the gift before I tested it. Now I have braved it. He gave me far more than £7.99. Thanks Scott.

I have a suspicion of novels which wear their appreciation too brazenly. Here you have to get beyond four or five pages of accolades before you get to the work, which begins on page 13. But the acclaim is deserved. What have we got?

A book narrated by death in person. A book that deals with its gruelling themes by giving the reader plenty of advance notice of them. A book about being German in 1939. A book about the extremes of humanity to do good and evil - and sometimes the difficulty it is knowing which is which. A book about words - language as the great metaphor we have constructed to describe who we are and what we do. A book where the ideas are so important the author doesn't allow the prose to get in the way. I almost didn't notice I was reading it. I was lost in it.

Death doesn't haunt humanity; it's the other way round. Quite, quite spectacularly brilliant. Don't be a conscript. Volunteer to read it at the next available opportunity.

1 comment:

Ray Barnes said...

I totally agree with your summary.
It was the last book my late husband bought me (hard cover) when it was newly published.
Not an easy read, but a gripping tale, brilliantly told!