Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

PAPERBACK; 560 P.
BLACK SWAN, 2007/2005
SOURCE: PURCHASED

HERE IS A SMALL FACT – YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.

Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.

SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION – THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH.

It’s a small story, about: a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.

ANOTHER THING YOU SHOULD KNOW – DEATH WILL VISIT THE BOOK THIEF THREE TIMES.

This book often comes across in the “Best books of 2013” posts. And for a good reason. The intriguing narrator, the topic, and generally the book itself just make such an impression on a reader that it is hard not to like it. The perspective of a young girl in Nazi Germany has been explored for example in The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, but this time the point of view is that of a “regular citizen” and shows how it was not just the Jews who lived on the edge, trying to survive.

The story starts with the narrator, Death, who explains how he got to know this story, and how it will turn out.  We follow a small girl, Liesel, who is adopted by the Hubermann’s because her parents are taken away. Most of the story takes place in Himmel Street, Munich, a poor neighbourhood filled with different characters that all have a story to tell. The queer thing about Liesel is that she steals her first book, a gravedigger’s manual, even though she can’t read. Learning to read and write, Liesel slowly discovers the power of words, stealing more books as the story continues.

I loved how in the beginning of the book Zusak slowly introduced the Nazism through colours and symbols; it was brilliant. I also loved the small German snippets that were included in the dialogue as well as the small notes that the narrator makes. The characters in The Book Thief are diverse, showing the different sides of humanity. Despite the narrator giving half of the story away in the beginning of the book, the general sense while reading this book for me was the agonising wait for the things to actually happen. Turning the page you fear for the future to come too soon. I also loved how the book wasn’t too explicit, challenging the reader to make some of the connections herself/himself.

I’d definitely recommend this book to almost everyone. However, you might first want to recap that WWII history a bit just to understand some of the references.

5/5

“A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.”

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3 thoughts on “Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

  1. Great review! I’ve always wanted to read The Book Thief as there is always good reviews for it and the movie that recently came out.
    If you’re looking for some other great Nazi Germany books The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult is pretty good.

  2. Thank you! Yes, I do now understand why people were so excited for the movie release. Might actually now go and see the film once it comes here. And thank you for the recommendation! I’ll keep it in mind the next time I go to a library/bookstore.

  3. Pingback: Wrapping It Up for 2013! | Books in the Burbs

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