October 5, 2008

Review: The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

Oh my cow, this book is so good. And apparently it was first published in 2006. So what I want to know is: what on earth took me this long to read it? Where has it been, these past years of my life?

Seriously: The Book Thief. Read it read it read it.

Here's the back cover:
It is 1939, Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

By her brother's graveside, Liesel Meminger's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Grave Digger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

Here are some things I loved about The Book Thief:

  1. Death is the narrator. (!)

  2. It's set in Nazi Germany and is not particularly about Jews, which is somewhat rare as these things go, and very interesting besides.

  3. Hans Hubermann.

  4. Rudy Steiner.

  5. Liesel.

  6. Max.

This is a gorgeous big book, beautiful and sad. You have to understand that lots of loved people die over the course of the narrative. The wrong people, if you will. That's war, I guess.

The characters are brilliantly realized -- Liesel is so Liesel, Hans is so Hans, Rosa is so Rosa. And the writing is stunning. I mean, there's something I want to quote in pretty much every single paragraph. And the book is 550 pages long, so there are a hecka lot of paragraphs. The chapter called "Pages from the Basement" is drawn onto painted-over sheets of Mein Kampf. The chapter called "The Hidden Sketchbook" is drawn, too, and it is heartbreaking (as is The Book Thief in general ... but it is also rather exhilarating).

This book is much less about the war than it is about the intoxicating power of words. The war is only a backdrop. The words matter.

I don't even know what else to say. I loved it.

That is all.

11 comments:

Erin said...

I LOVED THIS BOOK! I'm so glad you did, too. I thought it as a fantastic story, written amazingly, with some of the best characters out there. And I cried and cried and cried. So good!!

Mrs S | Blue Archipelago said...

I loved this book too - one of the best I've read this year - and I cried a little too!

http://sueysbooks.blogspot.com/ said...

I too am a lover of this book and all things Marcus Zusak! So if you haven't read his other stuff, grab those and read them too. Let me know what you think. They are all wonderful, though The Book Thief for sure stands out. I agree with everything you say about it. I love to gush about it whenever I can! :)

Christine said...

Suey, I hadn't even heard of this guy until someone at work decided to lend me The Book Thief. I'm so glad to have discovered him.

Fyrefly said...

Welcome to the fan club! I love your list of six things... I think I wound up with a little crush on Rudy myself. :)

http://micheleonel.blogspot.com/ said...

I started this book last year and could not get into it. Now I wonder if it was just bad timing and I should try again. Hmm... thanks for the good review!

Anna said...

I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book. It ranks among my favorite books of all time. I've always been interested in WWII books, but this one just blew me away. I think Death as a narrator was a great idea. I wasn't so sure about that when I started the book, but it just worked. It took me about 20 pages to really get into it, but then the book just zoomed by.

karen @ morsie reads said...

This one has been on my to-be-read pile for quite some time. I really should make an effort to get to it one of these days because really I've head nothing but good things (though I wasn't crazy about the one Zusak that I have read: Getting The Girl. In fact, I let myself give up on it).

Wendy said...

This remains one of THE best books I've ever read. You are so right - quotable passages everywhere. Brilliant. Wonderful. Sad.

Wendy’s latest blog post:Why…

Peechy said...

oh. my. gosh. this book was the boringest at the beggning, SOOOO emtional and good at the end!!!!!!!!!!!!! love how its 1/2 in German haha. GO HANS(PAPA) UND RUDY STEINER!!! "P

peechy said...

this was my first book that i cried at the end for!!! i never ever cry when i read, so this was a first. "P