How do you plan on meeting Death? With a fire burning in your eyes? Meekly, like a lost child? Do you plan to give him a punch in the eye?
Markus Zusak takes us on a journey with an unlikely story teller - Death. Not your skeletal faced, scythe-wielding Death either, in fact, in his own words:
“A SMALL PIECE OF TRUTH
I do not carry a sickle or scythe.
I only wear a hooded black robe when it's cold.
And I don't have those skull-like facial features you seem to enjoy pinning on me from a distance. You want to know what I truly look like? I'll help you out. Find yourself a mirror while I continue.”
I'd never read a story like this before, and chances are, I won't again. I'd heard a lot of very positive things, which quite possibly gave it a bit of a disadvantage, if I'd not been pre-warned the story may have been more emotional, more exciting, just MORE. Sadly, because of this pre-warning, I went into it with my eyes open, hoping, no expecting to be impressed and blown away with the story. I was... but not as much as I had hoped.
Leisel, henceforth referred to as The Book Thief, failed to worm her way into my heart and set up shop there completely. I felt connected to her, I mean she loved books and words... I wouldn't be writing this, nor read the book if I too didn't share that passion, but I think this is where the connection ended. That is not to say that Markus' writing style left me wanting in the emotional stakes... oh no! I will share more with you shortly.
If at first you feel a little distanced from the characters, or indeed the entire story as I found myself, persevere! I think the issue is the 'outside looking in' feel you get from the re-telling style of narration. This is something you must grow accustomed to slowly, immersing yourself, ever so slowly into the frigid waters that are Death's musings and memories.
By half way through the book, the distance I felt had dissipated. I was bound to this book. Tethered so completely I felt like sleeping with my kindle. The story began to haunt my dreams and pervade my mind while I was awake. I saw flecks of The book thief, Hans, Rosa and Rudy in people of my everyday life. A familiar silver eye; a cardboard-faced, wardrobe-shaped woman; a small girl darting through a crowd. I knew then, that this book would be a problem.
I'd been pre-warned about the ending... nothing specific mind you, but it was enough. Really this book shouldn't need a warning, the story is about the holocaust, we all know how that ended, but rather surprisingly it still did. It was a very apt warning too, and as it turns out, I needed it.
At 11:30pm on October 18th 2012 I lay in bed with tears streaking down my face and a guttural sadness gripping my heart as I switched off my kindle. I felt as if my best friend had died. That's horrible isn't it! But it doesn't change the fact that it's the truth.
Be prepared people, be warned! This book may do more than just steal a few hours/days/weeks of your life. It may also implant a strong sense of sadness and loss at the end. Be prepared to be awed, to be inspired and then thoroughly gutted. Markus has a truly poetic writing style that so completely shows you, not only what is happening, but also the fullness of the emotions and feelings involved.
Be prepared for an emotional raping with this book!
Be prepared to find out: “Even death has a heart.”