I Am The Messenger
By Markus Zusak
[TW: Rape scenes]
The Book Thief is an incredible book. It’d been a long time since I read such a masterful book which left me in tears, and couldn’t stop thinking about for a long while afterwards.
Enter, ‘I Am The Messenger’. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on more of Zusak’s work; I was impatient and itching to know more of his prose, and dark, compelling, observational style.
This book precedes The Book Thief. And you can tell.
At first read, I couldn’t get into it. I didn’t want to read it. It did not pull me in and I was disappointed. However, it must be said that I did start to read this during our move to Newcastle/leaving my job, so I eventually apportioned blame on the upheaval and stress.
But, I ploughed on before our holiday, and it slowly reeled me in.
Ed is a 19 year old down-and-out nice guy who plays cards with his three friends and works as a cab driver (illegally). He does nothing; his ambition’s non-existent, but he’s warm-hearted. Without warning, he manages to foil a bank robbery and is thrown into a bit of spotlight. He begins to receive playing cards with cryptic messages on them through the post, and soon realises that they each hold instructions for tasks he must complete.
With each card he receives, we follow him as he works out where he needs to be, who he needs to see, what he needs to do – and are baffled with him as he tries to work out who is behind the instructions.
Zusak’s writing is less engaging than The Book Thief, but the poetic style he manages without any ‘ick’ factor is still present. One thing I really liked about this book was the character development that was intricately woven into the storyline. In fact, I really loved all of the characters. I also particularly liked how the book is divided up into sections as it illustrates how ‘far’ Ed comes on his journey, step by step. It manages to be an inspiring book without being too cheesy and over the top. It’s certainly a good read, but not mind-blowing.
Re: the trigger warning above. There are a couple of rape scenes which I feel are handled particularly insensitively. At one point, Ed, as the narrator says; “…I don’t know how many times this man can do it in one night, but it’s certainly an achievement”. An achievement? How many times a man can rape a woman is an achievement?! There were also other obtuse references, but this was the worst. I’ll be honest, at this point in the book I didn’t want to carry on with it. I couldn’t decide whether it was really clumsy and unintended, or whether it was deliberate language used by the author to convey his character’s immaturity.
(Also, I couldn’t work out whether the book took place in Britain or the US because of the variety of language and references used. Turns out it’s neither. It’s set in Australia. Duh.)
All in all, I enjoyed the book. My one bit of advice would be to try not to read and think of it as written by the same author as The Book Thief; I think this fact led me to expect more, or something different, which wasn’t really fair.
You’ll either be really pleased or really disappointed with the ending. That’s all I’ll say.
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