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
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.
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