The Book Thief (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak (2005).  I thought this was a great novel.  Apparently it was a #1 bestseller on both Amazon.com and the New Your Times list, but I don’t remember hearing anything about it at the time.  The story is set in Nazi Germany.  When the tale opens (in January 1939), an impoverished woman is on a train taking her little son and daughter to a little town outside Munich to leave them there with a foster family.  But the little boy dies on the way, and nine-year-old Liesel is left alone with her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann.  That happens in the first 29 pages; the rest of the 550 pages tell the story of Liesel’s next four years—her relationships with her crusty foster mother and kindly foster father, her friendship with the boy next door, Rudy Steiner, and of course the effects of the war.  In a strange touch, the story is narrated by Death personified, a soul-collecting entity who is not human but who is not unsympathetic to human beings and their suffering.  Zusak weaves a powerful spell with this story of ordinary Germans who were neither anti-Semitic nor pro-Nazi trying to get by and live decent (as in moral) lives amidst massive atrocities.  (I get the sense that Zusak’s own parents may have fit this description.)  Liesel is a marvelous character, but so are all the rest of them.  I highly recommend this book.

If you like this book, look up A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City – A Diary, by Anonymous.

Further note: There are reports that a movie is going to be made from the book and has a release date of January 2014.

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3 comments on “The Book Thief (book review)

  1. angiedet says:

    I loved this book and, like you, sort of missed the hoopla when it happened. By chance I kept coming across Nazi-era books and read a lot in a short time. The Book Thief definitely stood out from the crowd. In my head, Death was a woman, I believe I’m in the minority in that respect. Everyone I’ve talked to felt it was a masculine presence. That’s a reason to love reading – everyone has their own take. Good review!.

    • Thanks for the comment! And for the interesting observation about Death — it is probably a failure of imagination on my part, but I think I tend to assume undescribed characters are white men like myself. I remember a zombie novel I read a while back that is told in the first person — and the narrator doesn’t mention that he’s black until almost the last page.

      If you are still on a WWII kick, do look up “A Woman in Berlin.” Another good one I read recently was “In the Garden of Beasts.” Happy reading!

      • angiedet says:

        I have Beasts in my To Read pile. I’ll look into Berlin, that To Read pile can never get quite big enough.

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