Tuesday, 4 December 2012

From The Vaults: Review: The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

The Book Thief

Markus Zusak

Black Swan, 2007 (2006)


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.

Reviewed February 2010

I have not devoured a book so quickly in a long time as I did The Book Thief. Death as the narrator made perfect sense: who else to oversee the destructiveness of Nazi Germany? As a narrator, Death is upfront, often wry. As a reader, you often know who will die long before they do. For me, this did not ruin the story at all, but rather lent it a sense of foreboding that brought home the indiscriminate nature of war: the good will not always triumph.

Despite the many traumatic moments the book details, The Book Thief is not a bleak novel - it is blackly humorous, and often touching without being saccharine. The main character is compelling: Liesel, who discovers the redemptive power of words amidst the horrors of her young existence. In a world where the words have been stolen by Hitler to exert his power over the people of Germany, Liesel learning to read and write offers her the opportunity to take the words back, to use them to offer comfort to those around her: Max, Frau Hotlzapfel, the mayor's wife, and the residents of the Himmel Street air raid shelter.

The Book Thief touches on a theme common to many novels about the Holocaust: the ability of one person to make a difference, to potentially save another human being. As is often the case, too, there is no happy ending, but nevertheless, Liesel's words are one girl's way of fighting back, however briefly.

Original Goodreads rating: 4/5 stars

Book source: Bookcrossed to me by a friend.

From the Vaults is an attempt to resurrect those book reviews I wrote and published on Goodreads before I started Bibliotekit. They tend to be quite short, but I hope they might highlight some good books I picked up in the last couple of years!

1 comment:

  1. This is such a great idea! I loved this book too -- I remember being so surprised at first by the unique narrator, and then just getting caught up in the story and the writing and, before I knew it, I was finished the book.


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