Book comes with a childish cover and a really tacky tag line “When Death Tells A Story, You Really Have to Listen”. It also came with great recommendations from one of the most avid readers I know. So I borrowed her copy and for days all I could do was tweet lines from Zusak’s novel being unable to underline them in the book and not wanting to lose them. 100 pages into the book I caved, I bought myself a copy so I can comment away to my heart’s content and gave her back hers.
That good? Absolutely. For me Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is nothing short of riveting. Mind you, this isn’t a flashy action packed tale. This is a story of a young girl in Nazi Germany as narrarated by none other than death himself. Girl witnesses death a lot, and whenever the grim reaper comes to take a soul, he takes a special interest in her little life. The story isn’t extravagant, possibly not even that unique, yet for all practical purposes it was brilliant. The reason for this brilliance not being what he wrote, but rather how he wrote. He wrote beautifully. Not a cliché sentence in 580 pages. His imagery, word choices and descriptive ability have rendered me unable to write for weeks, utterly intimidated by him.
Will leave you with some examples of what I mean.
Book opens as follows: “Here is a small fact. You are going to die. I am in all truthfulness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, thought most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter my protestations. Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that’s only the As. Just don’t ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me.”
“A definition not found in the dictionary. Not leaving: An act of trust and love, often deciphered by children.”
“That was when a great shiver arrived. It waltzed through the window with the draught. Perhaps it was the breeze of the Third Reich, gathering even greater strength. Or maybe it was just Europe again… breathing.”
“Opportunity leads directly to another, just as risk leads to more risk, life to more life, and death to more death.”
“Eleven-year-old paranoia was powerful. Eleven-year-old relief was euphoric.”
Death’s take on war:
“I’ve seen so many young men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me.”
“Day after day: the conversation of bullets. Resting men. The best dirty jokes in the world. Cold sweat – that malignant little friend – outstaying its welcome in the armpits and trousers.”
“The relief struggled inside him like an obscenity.”
“Or like a timetabled train, arriving at a nightly platform, pulling the memories behind it on a rope. A lot of dragging. A lot of awkward bounces.”
“The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be at the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I am always finding humans at heir best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both. Still they have one thing that I envy. Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die.”
“The sun stirs the earth. Round and round, it stirs us, like stew.”
“Sometimes I think my papa is an accordion. When he looks at me and smiles and breathes, I hear the notes.”