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Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

December 17, 2016

When you hear about a book being indescribably brilliant, it automatically goes on your to-read list. There’s also a bit of wariness about cracking the cover, as you desperately want the book to live up to its praise – because you desperately want to read an indescribably brilliant book. The good news is, Markus Zusak‘s The Book Thief goes above and beyond expectations.

Readers enjoy being drawn into a book by the means of storytelling they haven’t quite experienced before. While this attempt at reinventing the wheel is made by writers all the time, it’s rarely so incredibly effective and successful as what Zusak has accomplished. The narration is poetic and dynamic, and despite our narrator telling us time and time again what we’re to expect, you’ll find yourself begging for the fates of the characters to change. As hope arrives, a gentle reminder of what the future will bring is set down before you to deny and continue to mourn as you wait for something, anything to step in and change the inevitable ending.

I’ve shed tears over books before and experienced my fair share of intense emotional response to the characters’ experiences, but The Book Thief was something else entirely. I found myself unable to put it down toward the end, except to place it on my chest and wait for the tears to stop so I could see to read again. A continuous stream of tears kept me company past midnight the last few chapters, and I had to restrain myself from letting out some sobs that caught in my throat so I wouldn’t wake up my husband and have to explain that yes, a book was making me cry again. This kind of experience when reading a book always tells me two things; first, becoming connected to characters and stories when having an emotional regulation disorder is punishing, and second, this writer has effectively used their skill of drawing emotion from their reader and should be proud of every frustrating moment they had as they revised and rewrote drafts of their work, because it has been artfully crafted.

The Book Thief is certainly a book that I can set aside in a category of its own, as the indescribable brilliance of the storytelling stands up to all the praise the book has received from critics, writers, and readers alike. So if it is laying somewhere in your stacks of books you plan on reading eventually, go ahead and pick it up and open the cover. You won’t regret it.

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