The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak Review

Wow. Just Wow. This book is a absolutley breathtaking work of fiction and such an original idea and concept for a book.

‘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: a girl, an accordionist, 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’

When people ask me what this book is about, I find it hard to describe. Some people say its about Nazi Germany, some say it’s about Liesel, but I think that the Book Thief is about humanity. The book is narrated by Death, who turns out is quite a macabre but witty narrator who is fasinated with humans and their power to be so destructive one moment and then brave and kind the next. When I first starting reading I was a bit off put by the style of writing – Death interjects at points to tell the reader things. But as soon as I got used to the style, I loved it, Zusak (as Death) writes beautifully as if there is one thing I’m obsessed with its beautiful writing. For me, although the subject matter is sometimes harsh (the persecution of jews and various deaths) the prose was almost whimsical.

Liesel, is our main character and the aforementioned ‘Book Thief’. Almost immediatley we see how hard her life is when her brother dies on the train to her new foster home – she is all alone in the world and that is when her book thiefing ways begin. What I loved about Liesel is that we got to know her so well during her time on Himmel Street but before and after that, her life is a mystery. It is implied that her parents were communists, but other then that nothing. There is almost another story in that – what happened to her parents? Everyone from her old life? Liesel is sent to live with the Hubermann’s. Han’s is a gentle, caring man who soothes Liesel after her frequent nightmares and encourages her to both read and write. Rosa is a large woman who for all her outward cursing and telling off has a heart of gold. There’s also Rudy, a boy Liesel’s age who becomes her childhood sweetheart. I have to say Zusak has perfected that pre-teen relationship with Liesel and Rudy, where calling eachother names and having fights with the older kids is code for I love you. The trouble really starts when the Hubermann’s habour a jew, Max and thats when the lurking danger of the Nazi party and the Fuhrer himself becomes really apparent to Liesel.

I wouldn’t read this book if you like happy endings. This book is not a happy one, it’s an honest one and, like me, you will probably cry buckets. I would recommend this book to teenagers and up who love books, love history or just love a really great story with well written characters and a unique narrator.

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