Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Jenn's Review: The Book Thief

The Book ThiefSummary:  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.

Review: This is my second pass at this book; my first attempt was aborted because I wasn't ready for a good cry. This time I knew what I was getting into when I picked it up. And cry I did. Actually, blubbering, broken down wailing is more accurate.

It doesn't take long to become spellbound by the masterful weaving of the tale. Though the story jumps a little chronologically, from present day Death to the retelling of Liesel's life, it isn't difficult to follow.  On the contrary, the glimpses into the present help to prepare us for what is to happen in the past.

The prose in this book are as beautiful and haunting as the story:

"Steadily, the room shrank, till the book thief could touch the shelves within a few small steps. She ran the back of her hand along the first shelf, listening to the shuffle of her fingernails gliding across the spinal cord of each book. It sounded like an instrument, or the notes of running feet." ~pg 125

Honestly, I could just sit and re-read passages to drink it all in. Markus Zusak's grasp of WWII is bountiful and it is beautifully brought to life by this incredible story. Narrated by Death, the story follows the life of Liesel and her several encounters with the cloaked collector of souls. Death becomes fascinated by the book thief, and when he finds her self-written life story, he can't seem to put it down.  Liesel Meminger is Anne Frank's counterpart, the undereducated, impoverished German girl hiding a Jew in her basement.  It's an unusual point of view to take and a fascinating concept.

At first, reading is a struggle for Liesel, but her stepfather painstakingly teaches her by night.  Her relationship with him is beyond sweet and some of the most wonderful moments in the story happen between them.  I love how Liesel discovers herself and her world through 'her' books and the poignancy of her discovery that the immense power of the words and their very existence is sometimes a betrayal.  Though Death clues the reader in early on as to the fate of the characters, it is the journey that makes it worthwhile. The triumphs and tragedies are tangible.

Whether you read YA or not, if you like historical fiction, or are just a WWII buff like me, this book is a must read. I borrowed this as an e-book from the library and, upon finishing it, immediately bought a hard copy.  It's that kind of crazy good.  It's a beautiful novel of family, survival, and devastation in wartime Germany -moving, heartfelt, and absolutely wonderful.

Final Take: 5/5



Chelle June 8, 2011 at 12:48 AM  

I also cried through the book thief, especially at the end. It's such a good book!

quirkygirlsread June 11, 2011 at 1:09 AM  

I read this one last summer. I absolutely loved it. It was such a rich, compelling and well-written story. And very sad. I bawled my way through this one.


kkrige June 15, 2011 at 11:21 PM  

I read this book recently as well. I wrote a book review myself, but it got eaten by blogger when they fried their motherboards last month. grrr
Haven't quite got around to re-writing it. Alas!

It was a great book though. Nice review.

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