Wednesday, May 12, 2010
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Author: Markus Zusak
Genre: Historical Fiction - 547 pages
Target Audience: Teens - Adults
Number of Pages: Paperback - 547 pages
Picture this, it is 1939 in Nazi Germany. A nine-year-old German girl is sitting on a train, on her way to 33 Himmel Street in Molching, Germany, to meet her new foster parents. While on the train, her six-year-old brother suddenly dies. By her brother's grave, she discovers a little black book, hidden among the piles of snow. She picks it up and holds it close. This was her first act of book thievery. Liesel Meminger is the book thief.
When she stole her first book, Liesel was illiterate. Thankfully, her accordion-playing foster father teaches her how to read and write. So begins Liesel's passion for books and words. Unable to buy books because of her poor state, she soon begins to steal any book she can get her hands on.
Life on Himmel Street ("Himmel" means heaven in German) proves to be a great place for Liesel. Her foster parents love her and so does her new best friend, Rudy Steiner. However, Germany was not a safe place in those days, and Liesel and her family are put into even greater danger when her German parents decide to shelter a Jew in their basement.
Narrated by Death himself, this is the story about friendship, war, love, thievery, guilt, and the power of words.
A vigorous page-turner, this book is one of the richest novels I have ever read. This thought-provoking novel was told masterfully and though tragic themes occur throughout the book, Zusak somehow manages to squeeze in little tidbits and segments of humor without masking the theme. The strong symbolism concealed behind simple words made me think, and looking back, the way he told the story was simply a work of brilliance and beauty. Zusak made real issues during the world war periods easier to comprehend. The voice expressed in this novel grasps the reader and causes them to read every word intently ( I sure did). Every so often when whisking away through the pages, I would stumble on some illustrations, and they captivated me and i was absorbed. They certainly added an extra element to the novel for they shake things up a little bit after reading hundreds of pages consisting of only words.
And I will congratulate Markus Zusak on a job well done when it comes to character development. The author's ability to make readers attached to the characters is definitely an accomplishment. My love for certain characters actually caused tiny tears to swell up in the corner of my eyes...and no worries, I won't give away any more about that :) As I had mentioned above, Death himself narrates the book and despite the stereotypes we have against him, in this novel, Death is more different and more complex than we think he is. Normally we assume he's a heartless being with no soul. Well, I'm not sure about the soul thing, but in this book, Zusak portrays him as a being who actually does feel pangs of sympathy for his 'clients' though he had been on the job for longer than anyone can imagine.
" Please, be calm, despite that previous threat.
I am bluster-
I am not violent.
I am not malicious.
I am a result."
From Liesel's foul mouthed foster mother, Rosa, to Hans the gentle foster father, and the lovable Rudy Steiner- who always made me smile to myself, and Max the courageous, honorable Jew, and finally Liesel, the mature, witty girl, all of The Book Thief's characters are something to smile, cry, and gasp in wonder at.
I rated this novel a 4/5 because it was truly amazing enough to deserve it. However, at parts, for me personally, the novel got a little bit slow especially towards the beginning. I understand that with almost all novels, the beginning is almost always a bit slower than the rest of the book, but i felt as though Zusak could have cut out some unnecessary parts. There were segments of the novel where upon finishing the book, I felt as though it was not needed and failed to really affect the story.
Overall, this compulsively readable book gets a big thumbs up. This is a great novel for people who, like Liesel Meminger, love books and words.
Cover: 3.5/5 - I personally enjoyed the cover. First of all I thought it was well designed artistically and second, this cover would have hooked me at the bookstore (if my mother hadn't bought my copy for me). Like the actual book, the cover has quite a bit of symbolism in it too. In our perspective (Okapi and I pondered about the symbolism in the cover for a bit), the dominoes represent the people, both Jewish and German, who are getting knocked down by the hand, who we think is a representation of Hitler using words to hurt people. Thus causing a whole chain reaction leading to death, violence, and hurt to many. Though such a strong message is portrayed in such a simple picture, we believe that the picture could relate to the book a bit more, and therefore our rating of a 3.5 out of 5.
Source: I read half the book using a borrowed copy from Okapi ( thanks by the way :]) and I read the other half using my own copy bought from T.J. Maxx.
--Reviewed by Rica Eat World