on March 14th 2006
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.
Ohhh… I just finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and I’m debating what I can say here. The biggest thing is I WANT MORE. This book was amazing, A MA ZING! Ok, let me try to do this review while not giving out spoilers.
What’s happening: When we meet Liesel Meminger she is just a scant of a girl, fearful of everything and everyone around her. Her mother is taking her to live with foster parents and her brother has just died. At his funeral she sees a book lying on the ground near his grave and her instinct is to take it before someone notices her. Which she does. She can’t read it but it comforts her since her brother no longer can and with her mother about to give her away it’s the only thing she has and she holds onto it tightly. This book is the start of many things to come, some great, some devastating, but it starts the relationship with Hans Hubberman who starts teaching her to read in the middle of the night. It is those words that keep her going, even when she’s starving. And it’s the life of those words that keep her stealing book after book in the midst of war and death.
Speaking of Death, this story is narrated by him. We’re learning the life of a little girl through his eyes and through her eyes the life of a town. Some of her neighbors are fearful of not being German enough and some who would put their life on the line, quite literally in some cases, for any human being even a Jew. As life gets harder and harder people get desperate and you can see the desperation as the characters move, but there are also some times when life is still beautiful and they remember that in snippets and seeing this Death realizes that not all humans are horrible.
A child knows the difference between right and wrong without even being told, even though she is stealing with her buddy Rudy. Liesel starts stealing for her soul but soon she and Rudy steal to feed their stomachs but somewhere Liesel realizes the books she steals are so much more important even than food and that drives her every day through so many harsh circumstances. Her Papa helps her to live a happy life, as much as they can on their meager existence and even when a Jew shows up at their door they all know they can not turn him away.
Liesel learning to read and then reading to others is the soul of this books. She brings love and life in the most horrible conditions and helps to keep everyone around her brave and strong. The books she reads are the breath of life and the letters keep everyone’s blood pumping for another day.
Their struggles are serious and a young girl should never see and feel so much pain. No one should. But even Death realizes early on that the pain is what keeps Liesel moving forward, it keeps her reading, even keeps her sane at times and helps her to realize that even when a world is obeying one guy, that doesn’t mean she has to. It’s the words that bring her comfort.
My thoughts: Firstly, the Goodreads synopsis above does NOT do this book justice. It’s an amazing story of survival in a world that has been turned, quite literally upside down. When I was telling my husband about this book and laughing that I was reading yet another Dystopian for the year (apparently that’s my thing lately) he asked why I thought this book was Dystopian. It’s set in WW2, yes in Germany but in a town and under a roof where Liesel and her family are starving. Her Papa, Hans Hubbermann didn’t support Hitler when he first come onto the scene and because of that many shun him and he loses job after job. They scrape by with scraps of food, barely living in a town with little light in everyone’s souls. They struggle every day and yet still in the wake of horror they wake up with smiles because they still have one another.
This small town lives through so many lessons. Liesel isn’t the only one that has to learn about Death. Her neighbors and friends are not left untouched by the forces around them but it’s what Liesel learns through this experience that makes this book such a great read.
I read every chapter’s title and felt as if I was reading The Never Ending Story. I looked up and said the chapter title (of which I don’t want to give away even though at this point it would mean nothing to you) and pulled the book closer as I snuggled deeper into my chair, getting that little bit more comfy and finished the last 100 pages. I was so deep into this book that my husband would talk to me and I could barely wave my hand at him letting him know that I didn’t have time, I must read! Must finish this fantastic book, and now I’m so sad that I did. Sad and I feel wonderful at the same time.
I ended this book with tears streaming down my face. It was horrible and wonderful, intense and extremely well written. It was like looking at the sunset directly, seeing it in it’s full beauty while it burns out your eyes. I already miss the characters. I am a new fan of Markus Zusak!
I end this post with a fantastic song that I just recently heard. It fits this book fabulously. Oh boy… time to go get more tissues but I have to laugh because were it not for the Semi-Charmed Kind of Life Summer Reading Challenge I may have never picked this up!