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21 April 2010

Book Review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak 

I really don't know what post modern means. If something is described as post-modern, I figure the person describing it didn't really understand it and is hiding behind a term that few understand but that many, even the most uneducated cretins, bandy about freely.

As I am one of those uneducated cretins, you may wish to take this review with that proverbial grain of salt.

Death narrates. The flow is odd and disjunct. Phrases are turned on their ears. The language is often overwrought trying to mask itself as effortless; the language of magical realism pulled out of Marquez and Esquivel and plonked down in magic-less Nazi Germany. This book is working hard; almost working too hard.

But through all of that, the characters come through. Perhaps in spite of the writing. Or perhaps because of it. I don't know. I am, as previously mentioned, an uneducated cretin.

After the first 20 pages I thought to myself "sheesh" and seriously considered putting the darn thing down and never picking it up again. But I pressed on, not because I hoped it would get better but because a book started and not finished tends to taunt me mercilessly.

As I forced myself to read, I stopped noticing the clunky structure and the outrageous use of typical words. Maybe I got accustomed. Maybe it got better. Cretins can only guess at things of this nature.

But the book ended up telling its compelling story in a way that I ended up caring about what happened to these characters who spoke and acted like no one I've ever known. Or ever will know. Who lived in a world I hope never to know. A world described with phraseology that tried its best to be perfectly peculiar while simultaneously being distinctly descriptive.

I liked it. And it moved me.

Score points, I guess, for the borderline obsessive compulsive need to finish what I start.

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