Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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. . . .

Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she discovers something she can't resist- books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.
With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel 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.

The Book Thief is based in Germany, during the reign of Hitler. It follows the story of Liesel Meminger and her life on Himmel Street with her foster family. The first thing you’ll notice is that the story is narrated by Death, which - given the setting of the book - seems very fitting.

Another thing you’ll notice is that Death spoils the story for the reader numerous times. In the beginning I was annoyed at the reveals, but once I read further along, I realised that I appreciated the reveals - I can handle only so much sadness.

Death navigates you through the life of Liesel as she moves in with her foster family, befriends her neighbours and of course, steals books. He spins a poignant tale of love and heartache - I found myself wiping my eyes many times. To say that this book is only sadness would not be doing it justice; there is a lot of sadness, but there is also hope and joy with splashes of heartwarming moments, that weave through the narrative, making it easier to suffer along with Liesel. With just the right amount of tension, I think the story of The Book Thief is a great book for all.

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