Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Rating: 10/10

Published: 2005
Number of pages: 584

Started: 10 June 2008
Finished: 16 June 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier. And will become busier still.

By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.

So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

What a beautiful piece of work. One of those books that tugs at the heartstrings and reminds you why you love reading so much: for the chance to come across a gem like this every now and then.

The characterisation is brilliant. The characters are so real - they're unique, flawed and beautiful, and I came to love every single one of them. The narration by Death and all the little asides that came with it is very well done. And it's interesting how Zusak uses Death to tell us what is going to happen, but manages to do so without lessening the impact of the story in any way.

I could rave about the characters until the cows come home, but I'll try to restrict myself to a few short points. Liesel is a beautifully charming young girl, and her foster father, Hans Hubermann, is such a wonderful person - the type you wish you knew in real life. I enjoyed the infrequent but invaluable insights into Rosa Hubermann's real character and my heart broke for Rudy over and over throughout the entire book. Max Vandenburg's artwork also lent a lot to the book - much more insight is given into his character through his stories and art, all of which was very touching.

I haven't read a lot in the way of WWII literature so I don't have much to compare The Book Thief to, but I love that Zusak gives the reader a German perspective of what was happening in their lives.

This is one of the most powerful books I have read in a while and has definitely been added to my list of absolute favourites. A brilliant and very emotional read (I recommend having a lot of tissues handy). Having shamelessly gushed over this book, all that is left to say is that I very highly recommended it!


Charley said...

I really liked this book. Liesel was a wonderful protagonist, and like you, I thought it was interesting to see the German perspective. I also loved I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak, and another WWII book that I read recently was The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. I almost shelved it because I really didn't like the main character, but my friend encouraged me to stick with it, and I'm glad I did.

Kylie said...

Thanks for your comments, Charley! I'll definitely be seeking out I am Messenger in the future.

I'd heard of The Boy in the Striped PJs but had no idea what it was about. I think I'll add it to the wish list :)

The only other WWII book I recall reading is I am David by Ann Holm, which I read as a child. It's the story of a young boy who escapes from a concentration camp and sets off in search of his mother. I was excited to find a secondhand copy recently so I'm looking forward to re-reading it soon.

And I have The Diary of Anne Frank on my TBR pile as well.