Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book Review: 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

My Review:

I really enjoyed this book. For two main reasons: it's about the love and power of books during hard times and the perspective of the narrator.  I seem to be on a WWII/word lover book spree right now. I recently finished up The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Postmistress that had similar messages.

The Book Thief is about a young girl, Liesel, in Germany who witnesses tragedies of the war. She is given up by her mother to a foster family because her mother couldn't afford to feed or care for her. Liesel sees her brother die, helps to harbour a Jew in the basement of her foster family's house, and experiences the bombing of her town. Leisel's story is told, interestingly, through the character Death. Death tells the story about his experiences of carrying souls away when people die during WWII, especially when he is near Liesel and breaks his habit of ignoring alive people so that he can watch her.

Death is an interesting narrator. He often gave away the ending for the characters but it didn't matter, because as he says, "Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It's the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound us" (page 243). Here, Death says that we already know what happens in the end of this story, much like we can almost always guess the ending to any story (think of your typical chick-flick movie that just recycles the exact same plot), but it's okay because it is how you get to the ending that makes the story interesting and exciting. Even though Death gave away how the characters survived or died in the war, I wanted to read more because I wanted to know how those characters reached the end of this story. I thought this was a very interesting way to write the story and I'm glad Zusak included the above quote by Death because it put the story into perspective and reminded us that Death already knew everything since he was looking back to tell us about Liesel.

The one thing I didn't like about The Book Thief was some of the formatting. In the beginning of each chapter, Zusak put together a bunch of nouns to say what the next section of the book included. I thought that was a little weird and off-putting. I just wanted to read the story, not pretend I was responsible for getting everything together for the set of a play or something. It was definitely something new and didn't bother me that much, but I could have done without it.

The Book Thief was a beautiful and tragic story that was told in a new way (through Death). I recommend this book because of the story and because it was told in a unique way.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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