The Book Thief, and the Power of Words: A Review
I find it exceptionally rare to venture across stories that are entirely new and unique in literature. I think there remain only a few novel plots, but most are endless variations that tend to lessen or dull the distinguishing factors of such stories. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, however, was so beautifully crafted with rich symbolism, multi-dimensional and memorable characters, as well as a chilling story line, that I felt invested from the very beginning of the first page, and I felt spent after finishing the last. Zusak draws one in with his vivid use of language and frequent ability to move the reader from laughter to tears. It is an eye-opener into living in Germany during World War II that celebrates and explores the power of words during such a time. Collectively, The Book Thief is more than a young heroine stealing books; it will also steal the reader's heart.
The Book Thief opens with and follows the candid and contemplative, first person-omniscient narration given by Death. I think this perspective sets The Book Thief apart from most other Historical Fiction accounts from the beginning. Using the point of view through Death seems fitting for the tragedy-stained setting of Germany during World War II. Death sets the tone though his cynical, matter-of-fact persona. At the book's opening prologue, Death notes that "you are going to die" (Zusak 1), but that this is "nothing if not fair" (1). Death is bluntly dark, and often his asides or snippets of melodramatic pronouncements are so vivid and hauntingly tragic that they caused me to shudder while reading. I think Zusak's particular choice in narrator further makes The Book Thief so special, because it enabled him to work outside the normal plot mold of most stories and instead break from the typical, chronological sequence of storytelling. Death reveals many crucial events in advance, even the fates or deaths of main characters, saying, “Of course, I'm being rude. I'm spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it." (242). Zusak thus deploys foreshadowing in such a way that prepared the reader to more fully take in the elements causing the heartbreaking consequences or futile actions of each character during the all-consuming war.
The Book Thief was also mesmerizing because of Zusak's powerful use of language throughout the story. This is a story about the heartbreaking or uplifting power of words during World War II, and this was effectively demonstrated by the author. In telling of Liesel's ability as a "Word Shaker", or one who understands the potential of words, he says "The words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain." (80)....