Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Historical
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Published: March 14, 2006
Page Amount: 552 pages
Blurb From Goodreads: 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.
Why Read: The Book Thief is one of those books that I’ve known of for quite some time. I was never sure if I had read it once as a child long ago and forgotten or if I had never read it at all. After talking about it with a close friend of mine, I felt the need to double check that I had read this book of books (because Death is a narrator… so…. so I had to read it!). As it turns out, I had not read it and the situation had to be rectified immediately.
Review: After reading enough Terry Pratchett books to fill a small garage, the concept of Death as the main narrator in a story is not surprising to me. But Death as a mildly serious character who makes dry and cutting commentary into how humans slowly destroy each other was all-together new. The main character, Liesel and her slow descent into learning about what it meant to be the sought after during World War 2 was enthralling to read (serious character development props).
How to describe the distinct and beautiful writing style? One scene in particular that caught my eye was when Rudy, Liesel’s best friend, is taken before the authorities to decide whether or not he will be taken as a primary German specimen. The words are absolutely stunning to read, and before I had noticed, I was already in the room with Rudy and watching the cold impersonal manner of the doctors. On occasion, special writers like Zusak remind me what words can accomplish.
What makes the book all the more remarkable is that it shows the incredible power of words while simultaneously reminding us that in the face of such horrible hatred: they are not infallible. Bombs, mass genocide and people who hold nothing but hatred in their hearts are strong. Books protect us to an extent in the most idealistic of ways. We can survive the terrible burning of them if we write our own, and keep ourselves from only hating, from sinking down to the same level.
While I don’t want to compare Hitler and the regime of the Nazis to the unspeakable inauguration happening at the end of this week, it’s that same thought process that somehow convinces people that it’s okay (in fact: it’s preferable) to hate those who are different than us. We should not hate “back.” We should sit down with these people who are so incentivised to hate and figure out why there’s such anger in the American public.
Okay. Soapbox speech over. I just want to say that everyone should read the Book Thief at the very least and think about the power of just one book.
Rating: 5/5 Stars