The Book Thief
By: Mark Zusak
Published in 2007
Looking at my goodreads account, it appears that I might be the last person in the world to read this book, so perhaps there is no one in the world left to care about my review. But just in case...this one is for you!
Where to begin? It's a simple story really, about a very complicated time. I should begin by mentioning that it is narrated by Death, who has a very different perspective on the tragedy of dying. Death is tired, and senses that the more he interacts with humans, the less he understands them. He says that he often overestimates humanity, that he often underestimates humanity, but that he rarely estimates it. The last sentence of the book is, "I am haunted by humans."
On the course of Death's journey, he picked up a book written by The Book Thief about her life and her experiences. He uses that book as a reference for telling her story, and he makes particular mention of his own memories of her life--times when she has brushed against Death's world.
The book thief is a foster child named Liesel living in
during World War II. Unable to read, Liesel is the last person in the world I
would have expected to become a book thief. But although she cannot read in the
beginning of the book, and although the process of learning to read is painful
and slow, Liesel senses the innate power of words to transform her brutal life.
The Book Thief is not only Liesel's story. It is the story of her foster
parents, her best friend Rudy, and a Jewish man named Max. Mochling, Germany
A review for The Book Thief in the School Library Journal says, "Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward." I couldn't have said it better myself. The story of The Book Thief is a simple one--probably simple enough to have been a much shorter book. But the narration is phenomenal, pulling us out to see the bigger picture and then pulling us back in to Liesel's life. It's been such a long time since I found a book written so lyrically that was also action-packed enough to keep my reading.
Death doesn't have any sense of mystery--as an omniscient narrator he often blurts out what is going to happen hundreds of pages from where you are reading, or five pages from where you are reading. In some ways I appreciated that, because I'm not usually a fan of tragedy, and it gave me time to get prepared. It is a tragic book--was there anyone living in
during World War II whose
life was not tragic? Germany
The best reason to read this book is the characters. They are amazing; heroic and simple, complicated and human, all at the same time. Hans, Liesel's stepfather, is definitely the hero of the story, with Rudy, Liesel's best friend and partner in crime coming a close second.
Don't be fooled by the crazy way publishers choose to market their books. If the book is about a teenager, it is placed in the young adult section. This book is definitely written for adults, not teenagers, though as with many books, there is a certain sophisticated subset of teenagers who might enjoy this book a lot.
As you are deciding whether or not this book is for you, picture me sitting in my family room, crying (almost keening, really) for the last twenty pages or so. My younger children are all sitting around me, rubbing my arm and cuddling into me, because they don't often see me reading SAD STUFF. It was worth it though.
Melanie gives this book 5/5 stars