Summary: 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 neighbours during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
Rating: 5/5 And I’d like to give it more
Thoughts: I have been meaning to read this book for a long time but I put it of for two reasons, one because it was so long and therefore needed commitment, two – and the more prominent reason – because of the intense subject matter. A friend of mine then read it and desperately wanted to talk to me about it, around the same time I signed up to Audible, so I got the audiobook of it and began the journey.
Written from the perspective of Death, the Book Thief is not just another World War II story. Every single word Zusak uses feels as though it has been hand chosen because it is a cut above the rest and is the only one that can fit that moment, that feeling. Although I have seen the film and liked it, I don’t think I’ll watch it again having now read the book. The book is a very visual image, told with metaphors and similes and generally a very beautiful use of language. It needs, for me, to be read not seen.
The story of the book was important, of course, but beyond that the words were the most important thing. At one point Liesel is so mad at the words and she even says that without words we would have none of the world’s problems, even Hitler would be nothing without words. Liesel, Hans, Rosa, Rudy, Max all of the characters in this book are beautiful. We come to know all of them through Death, through Liesel’s feelings towards them and we see a grow in all of them as Liesel goes from a ten year old girl screaming at being taken from her Mother to a fourteen year old young adult crying at the loss of everyone she loves.
Zusak tackles so many subjects throughout this book. The importance of words is just one of them. He looks at the life of the every day German during the reign of the Nazi. He looks at the pain of an evacuee child. He shows the power and importance of friendship. He shows love on so many different levels. Pain, grief, family, love, loss, survivors guilt, and words. And every single part of it is beautiful. I have read a lot of books in my time, but never one that has felt like this, never one where each word was perfect.