Sigh.. I don’t feel like writing today’s post. In all honesty, I feel like it’s such a waste of time and energy to talk about a book which disappointed me. Unlike a book which I hate, I wouldn’t have such strong feelings for a disappointing book. A ‘disappointing’ book would probably entail one which I had high expectations of but turned out to be mediocre. If so, why would I spend my time talking about something so “meh”? Oh wells…
Firstly, there was a lot of hoohah about how good the book is supposed to be. There was so much and rave and it was highly publicised. There was even a movie-adaptation coming out to showcase how good the story was. I thought, “Wow. That must be really good.” So, I got a copy of the book to “prepare” myself for the movie release. Let me tell you now. Don’t waste your time. If you still want to know the story of The Book Thief, the movie is better than the book.
I was initially impressed with the idea of having Death as the narrator. He even started with a beautiful imagery on colours and how he sees things when he comes to collect. (You can read the introduction here.) Sadly, Zusak didn’t develop this idea very well. He was in a very good position to use the colours as part of his story but he didn’t do so. In fact, there are many points when I forgot that Death was narrating the story. And, even worse, he will come back after a while to make some unsolicited remarks and unappreciated spoilers. Something like, “they’ll do this but don’t worry, I’ll tell you about that later… “And I’d go, “what?!?”
On hindsight, that was probably Zusak’s trick to keep readers hooked. Unfortunately, that was more annoying that enthralling. You see, once I knew what to expect, the small (supposedly interesting) details of the story just feels irrelevant and unimportant. Hence, I’ll just skim through them without paying much attention. If he didn’t do this “spoiler” thing, I might have hung to his words more and attached myself more to the story. Sadly, this wasn’t the case.
Honestly, I tried really hard to like the characters and the story behind them. I didn’t hate it as much as M.E. Thomas’s “Confessions of a Sociopath” but I didn’t love them either. The characters are actually likeable. I liked Hans Hubermann and Rudy Steiner a lot! But, with a Nazi Germany setting, I thought Zusak had a huge opportunity to make the character, especially Liesel Meminger, deeper and with more substance – which he didn’t. Instead, after all their trials and difficulties, the characters didn’t seem to develop as much as the number of words Liesel learned to read.
Indeed, I’m wondering what about Liesel was supposed to capture Death’s attention so much in contrast everyone else? She was adorable but her personality was not quite there. Death pertains to her as “The Book Thief” when she barely steals or enjoys them anyway. And, after witnessing so much death, she could have emerged wiser, braver or stronger but she didn’t. I thought her relationship with others would be something Death, who is incapable of emotion let alone love, would (irrationally and surprisingly) be empathetic of but those weren’t very remarkable either. The family had a good relationship but it was rather lukewarm and indistinct. Plus, her friendship with Rudy and the mayor’s wife had so much more potential to be make the story more honourable and realistic. Sadly, Zusak’s story just scratched its surface.
For all of us not to waste our time further, please just read Sophia’s review of “The Book Thief” here. Her review is so accurate and entertaining – it is actually more amusing than (my review and) the book itself. Haha. (: