The Book Thief
by Markus Zusack
Published: 1 Jan 2008 (reprint)
Publisher: Black Swan
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:
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
I chose this book despite it being a book I wouldn’t normally choose to read. It was featured in a ‘Top 10 favourite books’ list in a youtube video, so I decided to try something new. I must begin this review by saying: this book has made that list for me too.
Make yourself a cup of tea. This is going to be a long one!
As I mentioned, this isn’t a book I would normally choose. If you’re looking for a light– hearted, sitting-at-the-beach, breezy book, this isn’t for you. Which was what I immediately thought when I read the blurb. Nazi Germany? Bombs? Death? Yikes! Definitely not a book you can steam through whilst drinking cocktails, poolside. Re-reading the blurb something did strike me, the book is narrated by death. I found that quite interesting, and I like books that have a little something different.
Once I returned home with my copy I began reading. As expected, the book isn’t a light read. Within the first few chapters I realised I would need tissues. A lot of tissues. This book really did pull at my emotions. This novel is beautifully written, and I still can’t get over how Zusak created some really powerful images. A personal favourite for me was from the narrator, death. “I’ve seen so many young men over the years who think they’re running at other men. They are not. They’re running at me.”
That still makes my stomach drop. Many things in the story had that effect.
My favourite thing about this novel is the relationships. Firstly, my relationship with Liesel, I quickly became attached to her. She is a fiery young girl, with a love for books. No, not books. Words. She is fascinated by words and how they move and change. So much so that she steals words, from book burnings, the mayor’s personal library, and from a burial.
Secondly, I can’t choose which relationship I loved the most. Each one was different and significant to Liesel. She grew to love many people in this novel in different ways. It has to be said, the relationship that leapt off the page for me, was the one between Liesel and Hans Hubermann. Her papa.
Beautiful. You’ll have to read this book to understand what I mean, it’s simply wonderful. I just can’t do it justice.
One thing I liked about this book is that it has short chapters. Mainly because this isn’t a book you can read quickly. I found this helpful because I could read this around work easier. I hate stopping mid-chapter, and I think it would have been easy to lose my way if I’d found myself stopping in this book. There is a lot to take on here, not only Liesel’s story, but her papa’s memories, and also, the story of the Jewish fist-fighter. (Another relationship I adored!)
The author kept me engaged throughout, adding things like German definitions, and stories within the story. Liesel was passionate about words, and their effect, so I loved those touches to highlight certain words and create authenticity. Particularly, The Word Shaker. Again, please read to understand. I can’t take the privilege of reading this first hand away from you.
I sometimes forgot at times that the book is narrated by death. I’d become so engrossed in Liesel’s story, that I forgot the narrator, until something happened in which would warrant a return. The narrator’s voice becomes a heavy reminder of when the book is set. The author paints the time well. It does make you feel uncomfortable and almost frightened (along with the characters) without being too graphic. You can understand why the narrator’s personal view weaves in and out of the story given the world that surrounds the characters.
The Book Thief is simply a beautiful, sad, well-written novel. I would recommend this book to anyone, even if it doesn’t sound like your thing. Give it a try. I’m lending my copy to my mum as I know she’ll love it as much as I did. This book will stay with me for a while, and I can’t praise it enough. If you’ve yet to read it, I suggest keeping tissues close by, and a bar of chocolate for after. I know I needed them.
Don’t pass this book by, it’s a wonderful read.
If you’d like to get yourself a copy: Amazon link