MK’s Book Reviews: The Book Thief

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It has recently come to my attention that not everyone has read this amazing important book. If you are among this unfortunate group of people, please read on…

This is one of my favorite books of all time, and you should read it.

It’s 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

The Goodreads 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 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.

I asked when I reviewed this book when books about the Holocaust/World War II would start getting stale. The answer is, I think, never. The world hadn’t seen a conflict that touched so many people before, or since, and there are so many stories here to tell.

Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness.

Plus, this book is so much more than just “a World War II” book. It’s above all else an incredibly told story. It focuses in on one person: Liesel, the orphaned German girl, and the people around her–but then zooms back out to the thing itself.

A small but noteworthy note. I’ve seen so many young men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me.

The people who do not like this book tend to dislike it for one common reason: the writing style. It’s an experimental style, to be sure. This is no “once upon a time there lived a girl named Liesel” kind of story. This book is written in the first person, but not from Liesel’s point of view. From the point of view of … Death.

It sounds weird. It is weird. But it works. Zusak’s prose throughout this novel is so unbelievably beautiful that even recalling my favorite quotes cause me to tear up.

The beginning of this beautiful, weird novel:

First the colors.

The the humans.

That’s usually how I see things.

Or at least, how I try.

***HERE IS A SMALL FACT***

You are going to die.

I am in all truthfuness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, though most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter my protestations. Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that’s only the A’s. Just don’t ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me.

***REACTION TO THE AFOREMENTIONED FACT***

Does this worry you?

I urge you–don’t be afraid.

I’m nothing if not fair.

–Of course, an introduction.

A beginning.

Where are my manners?

I could introduce myself properly, but it’s not really necessary. You will know me well enough and soon enough, depending on a diverse range of variables. It suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A color will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away.

Yes, it is weird. But so lyrical. I think people have two types of reactions to this kind of voice in a story–they love it and keep reading or hate it and stop reading. I loved it, and kept reading, and was rewarded by one of the most moving stories I’ve ever encountered.

The consequence of this is that I’m 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.

The story starts with Liesel, on her way to bury her little brother. At his grave site she finds a book–The Gravedigger’s Handbook. She takes it. And thus begins a long career of book thievery. She maintains her love of books through moving to a new foster home, through the trials and tribulations of school. Through meeting her best friend, Rudy. Through book burnings. Through hiding a Jew in the basement. Through the rest of the war, amid devastating loss.

“She took a step and didn’t want to take any more, but she did.”

 Obviously this book is going to make you sob. As for me, I love sad books. If you don’t, this probably isn’t the book for you. But you’d be missing out.

“Hair the color of lemons,'” Rudy read. His fingers touched the words. “You told him about me?”

I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.

 The quote at the end makes me sob, but I don’t want to write it out here because you need to read the book first if you haven’t. So go read it now, please.

16 thoughts on “MK’s Book Reviews: The Book Thief

  1. I loved this book! It’s the style that intrigues the reader and that makes it stand out from the crowd. I thought the movie was pretty good too, but so much was left out.

    Like

  2. Ah, this was my top read of 2014. I know I read it way after most people did, but I absolutely loved it, for all the reasons you’re naming. It took me a while to get through it, mostly because of the writing style, but I’m glad I did. I promptly bought it in hard back after I read it on library loan because I knew I’d re-read it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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