THE BOOK THIEF // Markus Zusak
Genre: YA Fiction / historical setting
Published: March 14th 2006 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Recommend-worthy?: YES YES AND 114% YES. (even though pretty much everyone in the Solar System has read it by now)
I know it’s horrible, but I hadn’t read “The Book Thief” until this summer. *surrenders* I’M SORRY, I KNOW I FAILED YOU. It’s even beyond the point of being fashionably late now. I’m 97% failure, 4% mistake.
However, isn’t there that saying about good things coming to those who wait? (*nods to self* – yes, we’ll try that one…) I had already watched the movie – inadvertently, at that – so somewhat put off reading the book because I didn’t know if it would live up to the GLORY that was the film.
Long story short: it surpassed it, and KNOCKED ME BACKWARDS WITH ALL THE FEELS.
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 meagre 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 neighbours 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.
Not only an emotional roller-coaster (there are copious “highs”, yes, but wow are the “lows” COLOSSAL), but this book has a charming way of managing to make you feel something about every character. Zusak’s writing style is so personal and poetic, it tangibly scratches at your emotions and almost forces an engendered reaction. With chapters devoted to each act of book thievery, we follow Liesel in her new-found home, school, and attitude.
- The characters: now I know this is a very meaty topic, but I love the way in which Zusak manages to cause a reaction to each and every one of them (as mentioned above!). My stand-outs?
– Rudy and his lemon hair; he has so much energy, and I found myself rooting for him as the story progressed.
– Rosa Hubermann (also known as the lady with the iron fist); she’s SUCH A LOVELY HUMAN. I was super happy when she pulled Liesel out of class to give her the news of Max: what a beautiful moment between “mother and daughter”. Also she is the reason I now know more curses in German, than I do in English, which is always a bonus. 10 extra points to her for that one.
– Hans, and Liesel, and Isla Hermann. (basically, too many to divide my time between)
- Death: yes, this is a mildly psychotic choice, granted. But I loved the introspective narration and Death’s poetic description of … well, death. And colours. It’s always good to dilute death description with paragraphs on pretty colours. I feel as if he’s got that ratio spot-on *mini-applause*.
- The description that books FEED YOUR SOUL. I concur.
- Max and his books for Liesel: even if the font was absolutely tiny. (Also the fact that they’re made of a recycled Mein Kampf copy – HOW JUST AND POETIC).
What I didn’t like.
- I’m clutching at straws, but very occasionally the book just (and I mean JUST) stepped over the line with the over-saturation of repetition about the accordion/Rudy’s hair etc. Don’t get me wrong, I adored this 93.9% of the time, but when bombs start falling, maybe the descriptions are a bit out of place. (or equally, maybe the juxtaposition of ideas actually serves to bring out the tragically poetic nature of the scene?)
LOVE. LOVE. LOVE.
Would I recommend this to my friends? Absolutely.
Would I recommend this to an enemy? Also yes, and not just to see them weep while reading.
This book needs, nay deserves to be read, and I think it’s evolution into a modern classic is justice to a beautiful, and heart-wrenching story that now resides proudly on the front of my shelf… or surrounded by foliage (bookstagram purposes, of course.)
My favourite read of 2016 so far!