Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The narrator of this unforgettable story is Death. Though he should not focus on the lives of humans he passes by while performing his never-ending work, he cannot help but pay attention to Liesel Meminger. She is a young girl living in Germany during World War II. As the story opens, she is being taken by her mother to live with foster parents. Though her new parents are complete strangers to her initially, she soon comes to love them. Hans, her foster father, helps her learn to read, and Liesel discovers deep love for words and books. Since there is a war raging, there is very little money for food, much less to buy books, so Liesel finds a way to aquire the new reading material she desires--she steals it! Sometimes her good friend Rudy is the lookout during these book raids. There are many very serious dangers that Liesel faces other than getting caught stealing. Besides the fact that there is a young Jewish man hidden in her basement, there are bombings that destroy entire city blocks. Will Death have to take the soul of this young girl whom he has taken an interest in?

First of all, let me say that the entire tone of this book caught me completely off guard. Going into it, I knew that Death was the narrator and the story was told during World War II. I was totally expecting it to be dark and depressing from start to finish. However, Death is NOTHING like I expected! On the first page, he says:
I am in all truthfullness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic,
though most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no
matter my protestations.I most definitely can be cheerful.
I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that's only the A's.
He is so incredibly observant and uses such vivid imagery in his colorful descriptions. (I have found myself thinking of what color I would use to describe certain people and situations the last few days.) I could write for a long time about what an interesting narrator Death is and how amazing Markus Zuzak's figurative language is, but the writing can speak much better for itself, so I am just going to write a few passages that stood out:

As the book quivered in her lap, the secret sat in her mouth. It
made itself comfortable. It crossed its legs (246).

There is air like plastic, a horizon like setting glue. There are skies manufactured
by people, punctured and leaking, and there are soft, coal-colored clouds, beating
like black hearts (309).

...I am always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their
beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both (491).

I am haunted by humans (550).

I love reading about people who risked their own lives to help others (even if they are ficional). It is so easy to like Liesel, her kind-hearted parents and her best friend Rudy. However, the entire time I was reading, worry kept creeping into the back of my mind, because why would Death be narrating if everything ended all happy and warm fuzzy? I'm not going to give away anything, but I highly recommend this book. Be prepared to re-read some passages because of the beautiful writing, and know ahead of time that you WILL find yourself emotionally involved.

# of pages: 550
Date completed: April 28, 2008
5/5 stars


Melody said...

I'm glad you enjoyed reading this book, Laura. I've heard a lot of good things about this book, just haven't got around to reading it yet. At least I've it in my pile... ;)

Literary Feline said...

I think I've only read one "hated it" review and one lukewarm review of this book so far. Most everyone seems to really like it. I'm in for a treat when I finally get around to reading it! Thanks for the great review!

Heather Johnson said...

I was lucky enough to win an ARC of this book from readinggroupguides.com several months ago. I LOVED it! Like you said, the tone was surprisingly light for such heavy subject matter. It truly was like nothing I've read before - very unique in style. I'm looking forward to reading more from this author!

chatteringbee said...

I loved, loved, loved this book. It's one of my favourites.

Trish said...

How did I miss this review this morning? I've been keeping my eye out for this and was disappointed before I left for work and no review yet...I thought you were still procrastinating. :)

I have chills just thinking about this book--especially the last quote that you provided for Death. I'm glad you liked this one--we'll have to talk tomorrow!

Laura said...

~Melody--There are so many other great reviews out there, and most of them have been very positive. Even though the page number is pretty high, it is a fairly quick read!

~Lit Feline--You are in for a treat! It is definitely a worthwile read.

~Heather--I've recently been paying attention to reviews from Zusak and I now have I Am the Messenger on my TBR list. It sounds like a very different story, but I really enjoyed the writing, so I'm sure it will be great!

~ChatteringBee--This is one of my favorites not only this year, but in a long time. Thanks for stopping by!

~Trish--I did procrastinate a little with this review, and I'm so glad you were just waiting on the edge of your seat ;) We will definitely have to have a little mid-day chat!

zetor said...

Hi Laura, I've added you to my weekly geek list. I'm also a fan of historical fiction, can't wait for the new Philippa Gregory book.

Katherine said...

I've heard wonderful things about this book. Thanks for the review!

gautami tripathy said...

This book is on my TBR list. First I have to get hold of a copy. Can't seem to find one anywhere near my place!

BTW, I am here from Dewey's Weekly Geeks #1.

Debi said...

What a wonderful review! I am so looking forward to getting to this one.

Nymeth said...

Yep, it's hard not to get emotionally involved in this one. I loved it, and I'm glad you did too!

Anonymous said...

I'm hoping to read this one soon - it sounds good! I think I'm one of the few people left who hasn't read this one yet.

I've tagged you for the "Six Things About Me" meme.

Laura said...

~Zetor--I am looking forward to reading The Queen's Fool (that I found at a great discount!)--I've heard great things about it. Thanks for visiting!

~Katherine--I would definitely recommend reading it--it's pretty quick and can probably fit into several different challenges going on right now.

~Guatami--Thanks for stopping by! I ordered a used copy from amazon--sometimes it's easier than searching (but not as fun to browse bookstores!)

~Debi--I hope you can find the time to fit this one in!

~Nymeth--I recently read your beautiful review of this book--you have a great way with words.

~redhed--I've seen so many reviews recently, I also felt I was the ONLY one who hadn't read it. That must mean it's pretty good! Thanks for visiting, and I'll have to try to come up with something interesting to post about myself!

Maw Books said...

Great review! I loved this book. Death as a narrator was ingenious and I found myself rereading passages as well.

Charley said...

I read The Book Thief because I absolutely loved I Am the Messenger. I struggled through some parts of this book, but it has left a lasting impression on me. Liesel was so wonderful, and she really pulled me in to the story.

Josette said...

A new question just popped into my mind: Was the writing beautiful because of the story or was the story beautiful because of the writing? Or they go hand in hand to make up a beautiful book!

Thanks for your comment in my blog. Yes, this is one of my favourite books now.