Monday, February 11, 2013

A Review of 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak

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 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.

I first reviewed this book in December 2010, but I've recently picked it up for a second read (because I'm taking a Literature for Young Adults class and this was my first homework assignment.  My first class meeting was 6 February).  When I initially reviewed it, it had been a while since I had read it first (two years, maybe) and upon re-reading my own review, I realized that it really doesn't do the book justice, despite the positive review.  So here I am again, writing this review.  I hope that my writing has improved a little bit since 2010.

This was indeed a Christmas present many years ago from my Nani and it has since become one of my absolute favorite reads.  The interesting thing about this book is that you only need to read it once in order for it to stick with you.  Not that one read will ever be enough in a lifetime, I mean, look at me, re-reviewing this after another read-through!

One of the strong points in the novel is the characters.  I love that Zusak takes the time and gives each character a personality so distinct from all of the other characters.  Like, there's one character, Pfiffikus, who is rather vulgar and whistles a lot.  He's not a particularly important character in the novel, but characters like Pfiffikus add color to the pages and it's absolutely wonderful.

Liesel and Rudy are two characters I fell in love with.  I love how Liesel feels about books and words and it made me so proud that she put so much work and effort into learning how to read just so that she could understand.  I love how Rudy, while he is very much a typical boy, is also atypical in some ways.  He's a normal boy in that he picks on Liesel (because he likes her) but then he's not so normal because he's so open about his affections for Liesel.  He begs and bargains for her kiss for years.

I'm still giddy with excitement when I remember that the narrator of the novel is Death.  I think that I was able to get more out of what Death was saying, but I also came up with twice as many questions (which is great, because I hope to teach this book in my classroom someday).  It's such an interesting choice for a narrator and his (her?) voice is just wonderful.  I think it was a good choice.  It would have been nice to hear a little bit more from Liesel, but I can't bring myself to be angry or disappointed by the decision to make Death the narrator.  It just fits!

The story itself is just wonderful in general.  Until you get to the ending... then it's just devastating.  But that's a sign of a great book I think: one that makes you feel as the main character does.  And that's exactly what I got out of 'The Book Thief.'

This is a great book if you're a fan of fiction related to World War II, partcularly in Nazi Germany.  It's also good if you're a fan of words or are just looking for something profound to read.

I give 'The Book Thief':
Thanks for Reading!


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