January 27, 2014 by Bernadette ~ The Bumbling Bookworm
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Publisher/Year: Alfred A. Knopf, 18 September 2007 (originally published 1 January 2005)
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Source: I bought it!
Other books from author: The Messenger, The Wolfe Brothers Series, Bridge of Clay (not yet released)
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.
Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who 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.
In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
What I Thought…
I stumbled across this book when I was in the US last year in September. Books are cheaper over there than back home, so I was looking for a few books in particular when I came across this one. I vaguely remembered hearing about it beforehand, particularly that it was being made into a movie, and when I read the synopsis it sounded pretty interesting to me. Once I found out that the author was an Aussie and the book was already on my Goodreads TBR list, I was sold! That being said, I still didn’t read the book until recently, as I hadn’t been in the mood for anything too heavy. The recent release of the movie in Australia prompted me to finally read The Book Thief, as I had this notion in my head about not seeing the movie until I’d read the book (gladly so, but more about that later…). And what a book it was!
Narrated by Death, The Book Thief is divided into 10 parts and an epilogue, each comprised of multiple chapters. It follows the life of Liesel Meminger from January 1939 in the fictional town of Molching in Nazi Germany, where she is taken in by Hans and Rosa Huberman as their foster child. Her friendships with her neighbour, Rudy Steiner, and the Jewish man hidden in her basement, Max Vandenburg, are main features of the book, as is her journey from an illiterate young girl to a book thief. The beginning of the book was a bit confusing, however before long I was lost in the world of Nazi Germany and Liesel’s place within it.
I cannot even begin to imagine what it must have been like to live in such a place at such a time, where such persecution was the norm. This book did a great job in detailing that period and making me feel like I was part of the story. The German words interspersed throughout, quickly followed by their English translations, added to the feel of the story and the world it depicted. I loved Liesel’s relationships with Hans and Max, but her friendship with Rudy particularly brought a smile to my face. Their friendship and love for each other is adorable, with him constantly asking for kisses and her constantly refusing him:
Sitting on the ground, she looked up at her best friend. “Danke,” she said. “Thank you.”
Rudy bowed. “My pleasure.” He tried for a little more. “No point asking if I get a kiss for that, I guess?”
“For bringing my shoes, which you left behind?”
“Fair enough.” He held up his hands and continued speaking as they walked on, and Liesel made a concerted effort to ignore him. She only heard the last part. “Probably wouldn’t want to kiss you anyway – not if your breath’s anything like your shoes.”
“You disgust me,” she informed him, and she hoped he couldn’t see the escaped beginnings of a smile that had fallen from her mouth.
The style of writing, from Death’s perspective, is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. One thing I wish I’d known going into the book was that Death constantly spoils what’s coming next, usually at the end of a chapter. This was very evocative and certainly hooks you in. All I wanted to do was keep reading more and more, so Zusak’s certainly done his job in that respect! Therefore, for anyone interested, be aware that the book is one big ‘spoiler alert’ for itself! I didn’t have a problem with it because I’m a spoiler-addict, but I know that this can be a problem for some people.
Death sums up my feelings for this book perfectly with the following sentence:
He steps on my heart. He makes me cry.
This is not a book for happily-ever-after types or for people looking for a quick read. It stepped on my heart and made me cry many times. It moved me to laughter and to tears, and it kept me thinking for days after I finished it. To me, that is the mark of a great book and one that I will treasure for years to come.
Rating: 5 Stars