Friday, September 4, 2009

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

Also reviewed by Kari.

Summary: It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul. (cover photo and summary from

My Review: This is the story of the Jewish Holocaust told from a different view point than most of the others out there. This is not the story of a Jew, nor is it a story of an individual whose choice to oppose Hitler led to heroism. It is the story of a young, poor foster child growing up in Nazi Germany who finds solace within books, taking great lengths to acquire them. Soon she discovers that sharing the stories brings unexpected comfort to those around her. Her choices do not save hundreds yet her story is touching.

This story is told through the voice of death. However it is not the dark grim reaper that we have come to know. Actually death turns out to be rather likable and amusing throughout this tale. Don't get me wrong the story as a whole is indeed dark. How could any tale about this period of history not be? Yet there is a satire turn to the tale as death sees it, leaving a tale which is engaging yet haunting.

The story runs high on the emotional radar. These are very likable characters who the reader gets the privilege of becoming acquainted with intimately. Yet there is no mystery in the fates of these souls as death with warn you early on. In that way it is not a very suspenseful tale, however it is mesmerizing and difficult to put down.

The tale really all comes down to the story of a girl who learns the power of words. She is captivated by words within books early on and soon learns how easily words can be used to harm or heal. She realizes the magnetic draw words have for the better or, in Hitler's case, for the worse. This extremely well-written book uses just the right combination of words to leave the reader breathless.

**SIDE NOTE** This book is in the young adult genre yet this doesn't seem to be a precise fit. Sure it is a tale of history that many young adults would benefit from reading. And while the subject matter is never very graphic, I must warn you that there is quite a bit of profanity used throughout this novel. It is an important story for high school age students but also one I think adults need to read. I hope that the young adult title does not dissuade adults from purchasing this book as I believe the message within these pages is an ageless one.

My Rating: 4 stars

Sum it up: Many prominent words combined into a story that will leave one pondering Hitler's power. If his grievous assault was actually the result of the right combination of words used continuously, imagine how the same word magic could be adopted for the greater good.


Lahni said...

I love, love, love this book. It's in my top ten all time favourite books! I found it odd that it was young adult as well. Turns out it was only marketed that way in the US. In Zusak's native Australia it's considered an adult book.
Here's my review if you're interested:

Irish said...

Another book which I loved :) ............ With living in Down Under alot of High Schools have picked this book up to study .... It is an excellent read :)

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

It's one of the few books that made me cry. I made the mistake of finishing it in a Drs office -- and sat their blubbering like an idiot.

alastaircookie said...

I love this book- especially Rudy, he was an awesome character. =) Even though I was expecting (something like) it, I cried at the end too. I didn't find it too odd that it was marketed as YA, especially since Markus Zusak wrote YA books before he wrote The Book Thief (such as, The Messenger- which is a really good book!).


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