I try to read the books before I end up watching the inspired films or TV shows (or games) that get released. Sometimes this doesn’t happen, and in the case of The Book Thief, I did the opposite; I watched the movie, and proceeded to get a hold of the book. Maybe this was a good thing, because at least I knew what to expect when I was reading it, and the spoilers–while heartbreaking just thinking about it–would have allowed me to mentally prepare for what was about to happen.
I was so damn wrong.
Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief recounts the story of Liesel Meminger, a girl living in Nazi Germany. Many things occur to the young Liesel during the tumultuous time period, including the death of her brother, an adoption process into the Hubermann household, the meet cute with Rudy Steiner, the boy with lemon hair, the hidden Jew in the basement, and the beginnings of a prolific career in book thievery. Of course, this is just the story taking place in The Book Thief. Some people might ask: another WWII historical drama about a girl? What makes this any more special than, say, other fictional accounts of the time?
Easily enough answered: The book is narrated by Death.
No, seriously. Death. The Grim Reaper himself. That in itself already makes the book even more interesting than normal. Admittedly, I picked up the book because when I heard the movie narration, I’d thought: “Oh. Wait. Does Death really tell the story in the book?” So I started the book and found out that yes, he does. Through Death’s perspective, you see a bigger world outside of Liesel’s immediate circle, yet he focuses on her life, and the characters she meets, so the story doesn’t completely deviate from his precious Book Thief.
The book is sad. Anyone wanting a light and happy book with an ending that bodes well for everyone should probably think twice about picking up a WWII-related story. The Book Thief is no different, and all you really need to read is Death’s introductory words of “A small fact: you are going to die” to be able to see where the story is going. Heck, even Death spoils the ending in the middle of his narration–I found this out while I was cooking, and had to pause the narration to go blink a few times out of slight surprise.
Confession: I didn’t “read” The Book Thief, I “listened” to the unabridged audiobook, narrated by act0r Allan Corduner. His narration was certainly compelling, and as Death, he was spot on. I admit by the end, he even made me cry. I’m sure if I’d read the words, the impact would not have been as drastic as listening to a storyteller trying to emulate the emotions in the story–though, I’d still probably tear anyway, because yeah…Death’s account was just heartbreaking.
So there you have it. If you happen to be reading this book to the very end, I suggest having a pint of ice cream or cookies (or both) handy. You never know how much cheering up you’d need to recover from Liesel’s losses. It is a beautifully written book, though, just sad.