This is actually more of a 3.5 stars.
I want to start off saying this is the first book concerning (albeit rather tangentially) the Holocaust I've read that wasn't penned by a survivor. I don't know how I feel about that.
I am very conflicted about this book. I enjoyed it, I truly did. I feel like it is a good story, even though not the kind I usually read. I liked most of the elements that make it up. There is almost nothing I truly hated. But there is also nothing that I liked so much to justify a higher rating.
I found using Death as a narrator very charming, not a useless gimmick. I immensely enjoyed how he was depicted as inhuman but not inhumane. Some of his metaphors seem a bit wonky at times but even if it wasn't done on purpose it added to the other-world-y feeling, for me at least. I mean of course an anthropomorphic personification would not describe reality in commonplace terms, because they probably experience it in a completely different manner! Also, very useless note: every time he described the sky I saw the scene as through a fisheye pointed at the sky, with all the buildings squashed to the sides.
Talking about useless notes: some of the interjections Death makes in the story are annoying. They disrupt the flow and all that jazz. Some are very well done. I especially enjoy those where he tells the reader what is going to happen in the future to a certain character (one that comes to mind is the one for Arthur Berg when the children see him for the last time). I also liked how the bombing in the end wasn't played for shock value, although it was still supposed to be very sad. And you could feel it. You could feel you were supposed to be sad, which is a thing that happened very often in the book and which I very much disliked. It doesn't just happen with sadness, there are many points in which I felt like the author wanted to convey a certain emotion, but I could tell it and mostly it didn't work. The most jarring example of this is maybe The Word Shaker
. I read it, I read it again, I understood it was supposed to be heartwarming, but I just couldn't make sense of it. On top of that it feels extremely pretentious. I've stuck it in the heap of "poor analogies" in the hope I will find a convincing explanation sooner or later.
Another thing I found annoying was that the mayor's wife left the window open for her and wanted her to take the books. (also the everyone who likes books is good trope needs to die)