Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Knopf US 2007 (Australia 2005)


This is a guest review written by Colleen of Foreign Circus Library.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Book Thief, a novel I'm afraid a lot of people are missing because it was marketed as a Young Adult book here in the U.S. Set near Munich during WWII, this novel tells the story of a young German girl living with a foster family and trying to cope with the daily realities of the war. She exerts a measure of control over her life by stealing books even though she is illiterate when her story begins. Though marketed as a teen book, I think The Book Thief far transcends that limited label. The message, the sensitivity of the subject matter, and the stunning prose mark this as a powerful novel of the Holocaust. This book is by turns gritty and ugly and redemptive, but is it always real and always gripping.

Populated with strange and wonderful characters, the story itself is narrated by Death, whose reflections lend even greater poignancy to the sad tale that slowly and artfully unfolds through the novel. Death often offers commentary on both the life of the Book Thief and on the war itself in a voice that sent chills down my spine:

An abridged roll call for 1942:
1. The desperate Jews- their spirits on my lap as we sat on the roof, next to the steaming chimneys.
2. The Russian soldiers- taking only small amounts of ammunition, relying on the fallen for the rest of it.
3. The soaked bodies of a French coast- beached on the shingle and sand.

Death views war as a harsh taskmaster, and marvels that humans have so perfected the means for mass killing. While Liesel's story focuses on the realities of the war from a personal perspective, Death's commentary keeps the big picture in focus, and reminds the reader of the context of the tale. I would highly recommend this book to any adult reader.

Other reviews of The Book Thief:

Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit
Tricia at Library Queue
Josette at Books Love Me
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Thank you Colleen. I thoroughly enjoyed this book when it came out and would give it five stars myself. I was prepared to reject it as outside my comfort zone when I knew that Death was the narrator of the story. I first heard about it when it won a prize in Australia and was shocked when its US publisher later decided to market it as "Books for Young Readers". It is and was written as adult fiction. It is a book that should not be missed.

Feel free to leave a link if you've reviewed The Book Thief or any comments you may have about it.

20 comments:

  1. This is a book not to be missed. It remains one of my favourite reads.

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  2. I've read this book prior to starting my blog. I had the audio version and thought it was excellent.

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  3. This was one of my favorite reads from last year. I loved it.

    Here's my review link:

    http://savvyverseandwit.blogspot.com/2008/07/more-than-stolen-books.html

    I will add your link to my post.

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  4. In England its marketed as an adult book. My book club read it before I joined and not many of them enjoyed it, so I never bothered to read it, but after reading your review and comments I think I will read it.

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  5. That does sound like a great book! I'm adding it to my wish list.

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  6. I have not yet read this book, however it is on my list.

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  7. I've got this one coming up to read for the War Challenge and I'm looking forward to it. So many have said that it's a must read kind of book.

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  8. This was one of my top 10 for 2008.

    http://libraryqueue.blogspot.com/2008/04/book-thief.html

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  9. I loved this book very much and I tend to recommend it to my more mature eighth graders who are looking for something "good" to read. Excellent review and those quotes from Death sent chills down my spine...again.

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  10. This was a book I really liked too. The only thing I found disconcerting was the explanation or definition in the middle of a lot of the pages. It seemed to interrupt the flow of the story. However, the plot absolutely riveting. The characters were fabulously done,brought vividly to life. It was very easy to engage with them.

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  11. I was put off, too, by hearing that the book is narrated by Death. In fact, I think I may have read the first few pages and put it down. I guess I should give it another try!

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  12. This was a phenomenal book, wasn't it?!

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  13. Hi,

    I absolutely loved this book and I like the relationship between Max and Liesl. One scene where Max had (or forced) to walk away was definitely heart-wrenching.

    I reviewed it here. :)

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  14. Thanks for your review. I agree that this certainly should not be marketed as young adult. I recommend it to everyone who asks for a good book to read. It's one that stays with you for a long time.

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  15. I am hoping to read this one sometime this year. I've been wanting to get to it for awhile now. I am glad you enjoyed this one so much, Sandra. It definitely sounds like a worth while read. Not to mention I'm really interested in this time period.

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  16. My book club read this last year and we gave it a very good overall rating. It was very moving and thought provoking, too. It was recommended by a member in our book club who is a middle school librarian and knew that it was really an adult book being marketed here in the US at a YA. I'm glad I didn't miss it. B.

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  17. This is one of those books that I couldn't wait to get and now, many months later, I still haven't read it...Hopefully some time this year I will get to it.

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  18. I have read this book. I love all books, fiction/nonfiction in relation to historical events, the holocaust included. I love how Death is that narrator. It is a remarkable book. Definitely one of my favorites. Thanks for the review.

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  19. I read and reviewed The Book Thief this week. I absolutely loved it. It was a story so sensitively told. I know I will revisit it again someday, and I've been telling everyone I know to read it. Yes, it would be a good YA book, but I agree....it's more than YA.

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  20. Oh, and here the link to my comments.

    http://embejoetc.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/the-book-thief-markus-zusak/

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