Friday, October 9, 2015

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

Zusak, Markus. 2012. The Book Thief. London: Definitions.
Rating 5 stars

The Book Thief
“Hard times were coming. Like a parade.”

Honestly, I’m not that kind of girl with strong knowledge in history. Whether in national or international history. Therefore, I usually steer away from historical-fiction novel. I’m afraid that my already-poor history knowledge will mix up with the fiction in those novels. Because I’m not sure I can differentiate which thing is fictive, which thing is historical fact. So, I started Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief on that wary note.

Well, at first I didn’t actually know that this is a historical-fiction novel. The back cover of the book doesn’t give away much (as it should). And I also intentionally didn’t watch its movie before I could finish the book. I noticed it is a historical-fiction after I read some first pages. Apparently this is a fiction novel set in Nazi German under Hitler’s authority. Sounds horribly boring.

The English version that I have consists of 584 pages… of pure awesomeness. I don’t want to sound like I over-praise it. But really though, I guess I never read a book cleverer and more beautiful than The Book Thief. It really was one satisfying reading experience!
The thing I adore most from this book is Zusak’s way in writing and delivering his story. For you who are reading this now and expecting I talk about its story… sorry. You may as well proceed to another site. For now, I want to focus solely on appreciating the writer’s writing.

 “But then, is there cowardice in the acknowledgement of fear? Is there cowardice in being glad that you lived?”

Interesting. Different. Bold. Smart. Those are some adjectives that I think are appropriate to describe Zusak’s writing in The Book Thief.

First, the narrator of this whole story is Death. It is already challengingly interesting only from the point-of-view itself. Death has his own way in seeing things. We can see how he sees human deaths, human nature, his own job as life-taker, and so on. The back-and-forth time setting in this story is sometime confusing, but still can be understood. In fact, in the middle of the book, Death tells something that will happen in the last chapters. He said that it was to soften the blow for us readers, and to prepare himself when the time of telling is arrived.

Zusak’s way in being boldly creative in writing this book is also super brilliant. Some of the important dialogues or descriptions become dramatically good because they are written in different paragraphs, titled, bolded, and centered. Also, there are some simple illustrations complete with hand-written story. In one particular chapter, Zusak uses dices as sub-chapters. Absolutely stunning. Zusak shows that no boundaries for writers in telling their stories.

I’m not the type of reader who enjoy novel full of personification (as in figure of speech) and flowery lines. I usually can’t stand it and immediately frustrated when reading those kinds of novel. And I found some of that in The Book Thief, but strangely it didn’t bother me in the slightest. Instead, several times, I needed to stop reading and just stared blankly at nothing to fully appreciate the personification in this book. Zusak doesn’t overusing it, that’s the key, I guess. He uses it wisely once in a while and with perfect placement too. Those personifications are not only to beautify the sentence, but also to emphasize the emotion of the story. I know, I know, it’s such a minor detail. I don’t have to mention this kind of thing. But really though, I feel that Zusak is insanely good in picking each words for The Book Thief.

 “Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day. That was the business of hiding a Jew.”

From the story itself, it is not a happy-go-lucky story that ends with happy-ending. At the time Hitler ran Germany, that was the time when nightmare is not when you’re asleep, but when you’re awake. Thus, it’s probably not the kind of story that you can easily enjoy, but still, you need it. The Book Thief opens our eyes again toward wars, genocides, dictatorship, racism, and discrimination, also how we should see all of them.

I don’t think this is a re-readable novel for me. But boy oh boy, the reading experience I got from this book is one in a million. Whoever appreciates literature, The Book Thief is clearly a must.

“She was saying goodbye and she didn’t even know it.”

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