Fiction dealing with the era of World War II is not in short supply. To address this topic with the correct sense of seriousness and respect I think is no easy task. Similarly is it difficult to approach the subject with a fresh perspective, a point of view that adds dimension to what’s complicated—to impress upon readers with new force the grotesque criminality of the wrongs committed, the valor of those who recognized that great evil, and the strength of the downtrodden, whose lives were so terribly taken away. Zusak drives these points into our hearts, and they rest heavy there. We are reminded that this time in the world’s history left hoards of victims, including the unlikely, in its wake.
Zusak, above all, is a poet. What emerges from his words are incredible images (Carl Sandburg): eyes like coffee stains, a tightly knotted rope with a dripping yellow sun, a body like a wardrobe and a face like creased cardboard. The images keep coming. Because of the gravity of the subject matter, I found Zusak’s writing style surprising—not to say that Zusak’s style itself is surprising, but that such a style worked surprised me. +/-