Book & Movie Review: The Book Thief

We all love our books, and there are times we wish they could come to life on the big screen. Sometimes our wish comes true and those beloved stories soon hit theaters. Yet as excited as we are for the movie version to come to be they are not always good experiences. Perhaps a character is portrayed incorrectly, important scenes are left out or changed completely, or that wonderful story has been reduced to something with no plot but amazing CG effects. And then there are times when the movie is absolutely stunning and you are left with such an amazing feeling after watching it.

How I First Encountered The Book Thief

For the last year and a half it seemed that The Book Thief was everywhere I looked. It was reviewed on blogs, placed at the front of bookstores, I just couldn’t avoid seeing it. And yet I had little desire to read it. Why? Well, it may sound silly, but I was avoiding it because everyone was giving it rave reviews and saying how good it was and that set off warnings in my head. In the past I had come across other books getting rave reviews and then when I read them I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about and ended up hating those books. So I figured the smartest this to do was avoid reading The Book Thief and I would be fine. But then my book club decided to read it so I could avoid it no long.

The Book

Initially I wasn’t completely drawn into the book. I found the writing style took me a few chapters to get used to but once I got into it I had a very hard time putting this book down. I particularly liked the fact that death narrates the book. It really adds something when the person telling the story is such an unknown and yet well known character. The little additions he gives to the story, be it a definition of a word or a specific trait of a character, really brings everything together in such a unique way.

As far as characters go there was such a great mix of them. From those extremely loyal to Hitler, to those who did what they needed to in order to stay safe but didn’t follow the Nazi way, to the Jews that were caught up in the war and everything in between. Often with books it’s easy for me to pick out a favorite character, but in the case of The Book Thief I really don’t think I can do that. Of course I loved Hans, Liesel and the mayors wife, along with many others. Heck I even ended up really liking Rosa, not that I disliked her at any point but she certainly grew on me even more over the course of the story.

The story itself is beautiful and tragic. While I personally didn’t feel emotionally attached to the story and characters I can certainly see how and why other readers would cry at some points and laugh during others. It really does bring the war to light in a not necessarily new but different way. A lot of books focus on the ugly side of the war, and there is certain a good chunk of that in this book, but it also shows that there was good happening during that time, that families were willing to help those who were being persecuted at the risk of their own families lives. It certainly touches on a number of tough issues but they are done so in a way that you want to keep reading.

I think this book is truly fantastic and I’m actually kicking myself for not reading it sooner. I’m certainly glad my book club decided to read this one or I may never have picked it up. If you haven’t read this book yet I would highly recommend it as it certainly stands up to all the positive reviews it has been given.

The Movie

The first thing I can say about this movie is that I really enjoyed the fact that I didn’t recognize any of the actors who were in it. A movie like this really needed an unknown or little known cast to make the characters truly come to life and not simply be that famous actor that everyone knows playing this role. There were a few names I had heard of before, but even those actors I couldn’t firmly place who they were or what roles they had played in the past, I simply vaguely recognized their names and had to look up what they had previously been in after watching the movie.

The movie certainly had the feel of the time it was set in and showed the struggles of war times. There was a pretty decent flow to the movie but it also felt like they were half rushing it in an attempt to get everything important done within the time limit of the film.

There is one thing that did bother me about the movie was right at the beginning. The scene where Leisel steals her first book happened so quick that I actually missed her picking it up when I watched it. I had to go back and watch that opening scene a second time to actually see her pick up that book. Considering how important that one moment is to the rest of the story I feel like that scene should have been given a bit more attention, that a bit more focus was put on the book and not that two second clip of her picking it up. While there were a number of other spots I wish things were different that was the one section that sticks with me as being poorly done.

How They Compare To Each Other

I think my husband, who hasn’t read the book but watched the movie with me, put it best when he said after the movie was done “It was good, but it felt like a lot of missing”. That is a pretty good analogy of what I felt about how well this book was converted into a movie. Yes, it was good, but a lot of the story was left out or changed. I know that change and removed scenes are expected but as movies have a time limit to work with but I felt that a lot of the essence of what made this such a great story from the book was taken away.

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