BookShelf: The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

The Book ThiefIt’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.

Like most books set in Nazi Germany, this one is tragic too.

The story follows Liesel, a young girl who is taken in by foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Hans is her new, gentle Papa who teaches her how to read, comforts her in her nightmares and plays his accordion for her. Rosa is her new tough, foul mouthed Mama who does laundry for richer people of the town. Despite seeming crude, she clearly has a big heart which is made even more apparent when they hide the Jew in their basement.

The story is narrated by Death, who is apparently some sort of being whose job is to gather souls. His narration was interesting, especially how he would explain some of the background of the situation. At the same time, he kept dropping spoilers ._. And not just one spoiler. Several spoilers. Repeated spoilers. A guy like that should be fired from narration. But one thing I liked was how I kept expecting the spoiler to happen, and it kept me on my toes. One major spoiler was announced somewhere near the first 1/3rd of the book and the whole scene was described by Death. But the scene itself happened right at the end. During the whole book, I was holding on, wondering how- more importantly, when- it would happen.

Another thing I liked about the book was how it didn’t focus on the plight of the Jews during the Holocaust. It focused on the plight of the Germans themselves- how they lived in poverty, how a simple act of humanity could brand you as an outcast, how the visit of official Nazi officers would send a household into panic.

All in all, I would give this book a 4/5 stars.

If you like historical fiction, books about books and interesting imagery (hair the color of lemons? seriously?) then The Book Thief is the book for you ^^.

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