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.
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist: books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she 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 before he is marched to Dachau.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.
This isn’t going to be a typical review because first of all I find it hard to review my favourite books. Second, there are many, many other reviews out there and my review won’t convince you whether to read it or not because you’ve likely already made up your mind about this book. So instead I will discuss the quality of the book and my experience reading it.
I’d began reading this book a few years ago and it had to go back to the library before I’d made any real progress. So this time was sort of a take two. And its probably best that I never got far the first time because the story hooked me way quicker this time around. Perhaps it’s because I’m older now, which brings me to one of the things I wanted to discuss. The Book Thief is marketed as young adult but I see no reason for it to be labeled as such. Thematically it is very mature and the narrator is death, who is definitely an adult. There is nothing about it that screams young adult. I sometimes wonder about the decisions publishers make.
I love death as a narrator. I know that it probably sounds a little morbid and peculiar to those of you who haven’t yet read it, but those of you that have will likely concur. In the days following my completion of the book, I’ve often wondered what death would think of something I hear on the news or how he’d describe the sky. The way he narrated the story was fantastic because he tells the story the way it needs to be told. No punches are held and every detail that needs to be addressed is included. The added comments and occasional drawings enhance the experience. If not for the subject matter, the story would be a pleasure to read.
I enjoyed the German perspective on World War II and the insight into life in Germany. The characters lives begin fuzzy and out of focus, and gain clarity as the story progresses. It is as much a story about their lives as it is of the war. You cannot help but feel a degree of fondness for the characters as you watch them grow up in the case of the younger characters.
You know what’s coming as you approach the end and almost want to stop and choose a place to create your own ending where the characters are in the midst of their daily lives and ignore the rest of the story. But alas, like watching a lion stalking prey, you need to keep reading. The fact that you know what’s going to happen doesn’t soften the blow, but it does prepare you for it. I think it was a brilliant decision to lay out the story the way it was done. It broke all the rules, but it worked.
I will hopefully get a chance to see the movie soon, so expect to see a review up soon.