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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – The Book Thief

August 15, 2011

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

An Absolute Must Read!
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak deserves more than 5 stars. It deserves the recognition it has received as an unbelievable form of literature. And it deserves to have its story told.

Our story is about Death…and Leisel. Lesiel Meminger goes into foster care at the tender age of nine, after her father has disapeared (he was taken away as a communist) and her mother fears she is next. Leisels first brush with Death is on this trip when her younger brother passes away, and it is at this point that her life of crime begins. Leisel is taken to the household of Hans and Rosa Hubermann- two of the most un-nazi-ish people you would ever meet but whom obey so as not to draw attention to themselves. Hans is a silver eyed accordian player whilst Rosa is a typical housewife- with a foul disposition (which is what she wants everyone to see) and an even fouler mouth- she frequently curses Leisel and Hans when they annoy or upset her or even in normal conversation (its quite hilarious actually).

As Leisel grows more comfortable in her new life, it soon becomes apparent to Hans that she is illiterate, and as a way of bonding with this silently irrisistable child he decides to teach her to read and write- specifically he teaches her from the spoils of her first theft- The Gravediggers Handbook (not the best of reading material but he would settle for anything). Soon enough Leisel is entranced by the power of words, and her quick and intelligent mind soon realises that without words her parents would still be there, her brother would still be alive, and Hitler would not be in power. As the story progresses, we soon see that reading and writing is the only real time that Hans and Leisel can spend together and it becomes apparent that it is a way for them both to escape the world they live in- if only for a couple of hours (Leisel suffers from nightmares so reading during the early hours helps to improve her skills).

Leisel soon grows into a smart and confident child, one who is not afraid of consequences (she even welcomes them at some points) and with a determination and defiance of her situation that as a reader you will relish. Leisel meets her match in Rudy Steiner, the boy next door, who would do anything for her if only for a kiss, and one is able to see the similarities between Hans and Rosas verbal attacks on one another and Rudy and Leisels verbal attacks on one another. Events soon transpire that put the Hubermann household in the thick of danger and Leisel must learn the truth of words and to follow her heart. Book thievery is a major plot throughout this book and leads to several of the events and resolutions, and ironically it is the fact that Leisel is writing her own story (think Anne Frank) that saves her life when all is said and done. Leisel learns throughout the book the sort of person she wants to be, the sorts of people she admires and the sorts of people she doesnt.

Writing from Deaths often sparcely detailed but ultimately comedic point of view was a unique and advantageous idea from Marcus Zusak that for me took this book from brilliant to fantastic. Deaths often humorous remarks about the people he sees (and humanities perception of him- he finds it amusing that we think he carries a scepter and is just a skeleton in a cloak), his knowledge of future events and destinies of those around him, and his tidbits of fact (he often embellishes certain things so readers are fully aware of the situation ie english translations, information to further your understanding etc) make you fully appreciate the story from all contexts and from multiple points of view.

As a reader, we see that although Death is inevitable, it need not be scary, and as Death took his poor souls (children in his arms and adults over his shoulders) we are symbolically shown the art of Death through colours and vividly frank descriptions which by the end of the book develop a level of understanding and acceptance in the reader. He provides a completely unbiased and third person point of view of humanity and the events of World War 2 and Nazi Germany, and tells Leisels story as emotionally unattached as is possible (although he says himself, he has no idea why she matters so much).

Throughout her life, Leisel and death meet on multiple occasions, and as her skills as a Book Thief grow, so to does her involvement in the immediate events until the book reaches its dramatic and emotional conclusion. I am not ashamed to say that as I read the last pages, I shed a tear. Such a tragedy, so many lives lost, yet at the end you do feel hope, and I personally think that is the greatest gift this book can give. The characters are well drawn and entirely individualistic (I absolutely love Rosa- you will soon see why), the setting is vivid and the events believable. I felt that the book was easier to read as well from an unbiased, unemotional, unopinionated point of view than from a victims (as is the case in some books- just too sad), and although the first couple of pages were slow, the book soon picked up an even pace, evoking the required emotions in this reader until I reached the dramatic conclusion. It was a privilege to read this book and watch the characters grow, the relationships develop and the people they became. I am proud of my adopted fictional family and their actions through one of the darkest periods of humanity, as you will be too. You dont need to have any prior knowledge or interest in this period- but it is well worth the read and I believe highly beneficial and influential to every individual it encounters.

A fantastic book that all must read and learn from, and those that dont are the poorer for not. Simply amazing. Once again, a skyful of stars.

For More 5 Star Reviews and The Lowest Price Visit:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


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