Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Death and all of his friends

I just couldn't resist quoting a Coldplay song for the title of this post. Maybe a little morbid, but appropriate for The Book Thief by Markus Zusack.

Narrated by Death, the book follows a girl living in Nazi Germany during WWII. Classified as a young adult novel, this is a book that’s had a lot of buzz among adult readers. But unlike, say, Twilight or the Harry Potter series, which adults enjoy reading because they allow them to get lost in kids’ stories, The Book Thief’s classification as YA is truly surprising because it's sophisticated in its style and tone. The story contains elements that, having grown up reading Anne Frank and Night in English class at school, I’ve come to expect in novels with this particular historical and geographical setting. There are Germans hiding Jews in their homes; there are air raids and rationing. However, Zusack is able to take these elements and twist them ever so slightly so that they never quite turn out exactly how you would expect.

What I found most interesting, though, was the constant, intense use of foreshadowing throughout the novel. Time and again, the author makes blatant allusions to the fates of characters and outcomes of events prior to delving into their stories. Instead of quelling my suspense, this only peaked my interest even more. This may be the most effective use of foreshadowing in any book I’ve ever read. A good tie to one of the first sentences that the narrator Death says in the book: “Here’s a small fact: you are going to die”. If that’s not the ultimate case of foreshadowing then I don’t know what is.

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