Friday, 14 May 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

GENRE: historical war fiction/young adult

Nine-year-old Liesel lives with her foster family on Himmel Street during the dark days of the Third Reich. Her Communist parents have been transported to a concentration camp, and during the funeral for her brother, she manages to steal a macabre book: it is, in fact, a gravediggers’ instruction manual. This is the first of many books which will pass through her hands as the carnage of the Second World War begins to hungrily claim lives. Both Liesel and her fellow inhabitants of Himmel Street will find themselves changed by both words on the printed page and the horrendous events happening around them.


I can begin by saying that The Book Thief is, without a doubt, one of the best books I have read so far. I read a lot, and when you read a lot, you become tough in the sense that you are not so easily impressed. This book deeply impressed me, and I loved reading it from cover to cover.

It is no secret that the novel is narrated by the Grim Reaper himself, as this fact is also revealed on the back cover. It is not a major spoiler because it is clear from the beginning that the narrator is Death. The fact that it is narrated by Death of all people, or rather creatures, was the first thing that made me decide that I absolutely had to read this novel. This is not a typical novel taking place in Nazi Germany. Naturally, much of the novel revolves around the things that happened during this time of history. However, the novel has a surprisingly optimistic tone.

This book, narrated by Death, is about life and growing up. The writing style is amazing, deep and very lyrical. It is also innovative and quite unique at times. The story runs delightfully smoothly, and both the writing and the story make it hard to close the book and do something else. It is a veritable page-turner. I find the plot very innovative and intriguing, and it makes you feel and think a lot. I like that; not many books can give you so much with words. The characters are so vivid and delightful. I grew to love Liesel, her guardians and Himmel Street. These people felt so alive, and they were all unique individuals that you can’t help but love. Liesel, the protagonist, is thirsty for knowledge and loves to read books. A bookworm can easily identify with her, I think. The love for books, for the written word and for knowledge is at the centre of the novel, accompanying the acts of horror, despair, love and hope.

Some historical and political issues pertaining to Nazi Germany are really well explored, like the Hitler Youth, poverty and Jews. Even with the Jews, the story is not typical; anything but. I found it interesting how ideals can divide parents and children who loved each other for so long, and then, an ideal ends it all. There was also a lot of tension and suspense; Liesel and her family had a secret on which lives depended, and I was always afraid that someone might discover the secret in their basement. This same secret also showed how friendship and love know no bounds; race, nationality, etc. don’t matter. It’s all about the human heart. Liesel is an amazing, brave litte girl with a big heart. She makes mistakes, but she tries to correct then. She is very human and although she is a child, she becomes quite grown up by the end of the book. War is bound to change any character. But I admired her strength, and it was interesting to watch her grow from innocence to experience.

I can’t be too specific about the novel because I’m afraid I might reveal too much of the story. I can say that the power of words saves Liesel from many things, and it helped many people to overcome their fears and heal their wounds. I usually don’t like to read books where the protagonist is a child, but I devoured this novel and I am more than sure that I will return to this story in the future. This is not a typical story set in Nazi Germany. It’s a really unique and incredible journey. The front cover is a bit creepy, I have to say, with a little girl and a skeleton holding hands, but once you’ve finished the book, you understand the cover and grow to like it.

This unusual, but beautiful novel left me very impressed, quite philosophical and pretty sentimental. It made me want to grin and cry at the same time. I really, truly recommend this novel. I urge you to read it. It is amazing.

THIS MISS RATES: (but it deserves 10 stars)

1 comment:

Bookalicious Ramblings said...

I really enjoyed this one too - it was far more original and powerful than I expected it to be! I wouldn't give it 10 stars, but it's definitely a book that'll stay with me forever.