The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), 576 pages
The Book Thief is narrated by Death. It’s set in Germany, opening in 1939. Yes, that’s World War II. Liesel Meminger, at age 9, is taken (by her mother) to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family. On the journey, she steals her first book, even though she can’t yet read. She’s haunted by nightmares of her younger brother’s death.
I knew I was missing out by having not yet read this book. I started reading it in 2008, but it was during the read-a-thon, in the middle of the night, and I just wasn’t capable of reading a book narrated by Death in the middle of the night and still appreciating it. Alas, it’s taken me nearly two years to get back to it, but at least I finally have.
I found the voice of this book to be wholly unique. While most of the material wasn’t new to me (although a bit of the perspective I hadn’t read before), this was *not* just another Holocaust book. The writing is superb, achingly beautiful. (I feel like I use that phrase way too much …) I also found it quite interesting how most things are fully disclosed before they actually happen — the narrator “spoils” himself.
The characters, the bookish elements, the writing — all excellent. A gorgeous book with a heinous setting. I say setting because war is not really what the book is about. It’s a backdrop, sure, and hardly a page goes by without mention of it, but the book is about Liesel, about words.
My only complaint (and it’s a small one): The prologue doesn’t really fit the book. After I’d read the prologue, I was sort of dreading this book. But once I got past that, the story sucked me in and the pages flew by.
Although this book was first published in just 2006, I’d call it a classic. This is a book that will endure. If you haven’t read it yet, why not? Sure, it’s not exactly short, but it’s also a young adult book, so the pages fly by (well, the fact that it’s a great story helps that, too). You have no excuse. Read it.
I definitely want to read more of Zusak’s work — I’m particularly intrigued by his I Am the Messenger.
About the author
Markus Zusak lives in Sydney, Australia. Read an interview with Zusak at the Random House website.
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The Book Lady’s Blog
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My impetus for finally picking this book up was the Social Justice Challenge; the January theme has been religious freedom. It’s certainly not a stretch to see how this book fits that theme.