This is a book review of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
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.
How do I review this book adequately? I am not exaggerating when I say this was the most beautifully devastating book that I have ever read. And despite all the devastation, it is now on my list of favorite books of all time.
The book is narrated by Death, which I wasn't sure I would like. But Death is one of my favorite characters ever. He is haunted by the war and the lives he claims as a result of it. Throughout the book, he not only tells the story of Liesel, but he describes the war and the different ways humans hurt each other throughout this awful war. He does give a few spoilers. But when he tells of certain things that will happen, that doesn't take away from the shock value of the events when they actually occur. These spoilers lends a certain dread because you have no idea how or when the event will happen.
Death narrates the life of a girl he calls The Book Thief, Liesel. Death is introduced to Liesel when her mother takes her and her brother to a foster family in a small town in Germany. Liesel's brother dies on the train ride and Death comes to take him. The first book that Liesel ever steals is at her brother's funeral and it's a guide to digging a grave. Liesel doesn't even know how to read, but she steals it anyway. It is actually Liesel's father who ends up teaching helping her to learn how to read because he can't even read that well himself. The scenes where Liesel woke up crying and screaming in the middle of the night were so heartbreaking. But when her foster father used these 2am nightmares as a time to read to each other, I was crying all over again. Yeah, I cried a lot during this book.
One thing I liked about this book was the the way it portrayed Germans during World War II. Most books set in WWII don't even focus on the actual citizens of Germany. They talk about the Jewish people who suffered and the soldiers who tortured them. But the author actually made me feel a bit sorry for the citizens of Germany. Yes, there were some citizens who believed in Hitler, but the ones who refused to vow allegiance to him were threatened and punished until they had no choice. Not all people who joined the Nazi party believed in the cause.
All of the characters were wonderful. Liesel's foster mother, Rosa, was super harsh and rarely said anything nice. But you could tell that her husband and Liesel were her entire life. And okay, how much did I love Rudy?? He cracked me up, always asking her if she would kiss him. He was kind of in love with her and he was the best friend she ever had.
And okay . . . that ending. That ending DEVASTATED me. I was SOBBING. Even though Death had foreshadowed the event and I saw it coming, I was still shocked. It was utterly heartbreaking.
Look . . . bottom line is: please read this book if you haven't already.
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy it!!!!