Saturday, September 6, 2008

My Most Favorite Books: The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak

Liesel Meminger was nine years old when she stole her first book. She couldn't even read, but after watching her brother be buried, she simply felt the urge to take the book. Soon, her kind-hearted foster father, Hans, is teaching her to read, and she is stealing books from whenever they need saving. Including from a Nazi book-burning. Set during WWII, Liesel is a non-Jewish German living in Germany.

I found this book before I knew about the wonderful world of book blogs. The word thief is in the title, which means I was automatically drawn to it, and there is something about the cover that continued to draw me in. It still took months for me to find the book, but I finally got it for my birthday last year.

I have to admit that I was slightly turned off to it when I first started reading it. The language is very artsy feeling and it took me a while to adjust to it. Once I adjusted, I loved the lists and random facts that the narrator threw in. There is something very appealing about how sparse and yet fulfilling the language is. For example, in the very first chapter, the narrator explains what the story is about:

"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"

Quite random sounding, and yet all of those things are important to the overall story.

I also loved the characters. From Liesel, who I rooted for, to her grouchy (yet, loving) foster mother Rosa. I thought her best friend Rudy's goal to be just like Jesse Owens (and the oft mentioned "Jesse Owen's Incident") was fabulous. Simply put, I just couldn't get enough of this book.

The inside book flap says "Markus Zusak....has crafted an unforgettable novel about the ability of books to feed the soul." and I agree with that assessment 100%.

5 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended


Fyrefly said...

I love, love, love this book as well. I love Zusak's writing, I love the story, and I loved the narration (I listened to the audiobook while I was baking, and *shh* I think I may have cried into my cookie dough).

Have you read any of Zusak's other books? What did you think?

Laura H said...

I too listen to it on audio. It took a while for me to get the rhythm of this book. I disliked how he told you what was going to happen before it happened, a big pet peeve of mine. But overall I really liked it. I loved Rudy.
It was rare for me to read a book that shows the German's side of the effects of WWII. My boss said that he believes more German felt like Papa (about the Nazis') but were afraid to speak up.
I havent read anything else by Zusak. There was alot of language in this book. Is his other's the same???

KT said...

Fyrefly - I'm glad you liked it so much, and I won't tell anyone! I haven't read any of his other books - I am the Messenger is on my list. Are there others?

Laura - I agree, that it's really rare to read a book set in Nazi Germany from the perspective of the German citizens. I also tend to agree with your boss; I can't imagine that Germany somehow raised a generation of monsters.

There is a lot of swearing in this one - I should have mentioned it in my post. I haven't read his others, so I'm not sure what they're like.

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

I read this one for my book club before I was fully aware of how popular it was. I really enjoyed it!

Fyrefly said...

Of Zusak's other books, I am the Messenger is definitely the best, although I didn't like it quite as much as The Book Thief. I've read two of his others, Fighting Ruben Wolfe and its sequel, Getting the Girl. I don't think the stories are nearly as strong in those two, although the writing is just as gorgeous.

There's also (I think) two of his books that I haven't been able to get my hands on, I think because they're only published (or were published, but aren't anymore?) in Australia.

Susan said...

I love this book, too. It's definitely one of the best books I've read in the last year or so. Glad you enjoyed it!