Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Book Thief

The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak

Third on my 20 book challenge, this selection is exactly why I created my challenge.  I know I have added a lot of really fine books to my list and then proceeded to ignore them based on what I've come across or what's caught my eye since.  Who knows how long I may have continued to evade being captured by this book, or maybe miss it entirely. 

I love this book.  It should not be overlooked or missed.  If you also have it on your shelf, pull it out now and put where you can guarantee you will choose it to read next.  You won't be sorry. 

The Book Thief is a war story, centering around Liesel, who is the book thief, in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The narrator of the story is Death, which sounds pretty morbid, but actually was done very well.  Death had just the right amount of sensitivity and disdain and never overshadowed the story.  The author discusses his decision to write from Death's perspective and the challenge.  I think he did it very well.

The story begins when Liesel is about eight.  Her mother is taking her and her brother to stay with foster parents.  Her brother dies on the train and Liesel begins life with her foster family on her own. Although one foster parent is more nurturing than the other, they both clearly love and care for her. Times are bad in Germany and they are a poor family.

When Liesel comes to the family she has in her possession a book that she found/stole when burying her brother.  She does not know how to read and enters her new school far behind the other children her age. Eventually, her foster father helps her learn to read and together they read her stolen book, The Gravediggers Guide.

The story progresses over a few years.  Liesel's reading and love of books enables her to help people in ways she is not even aware of. Life in Nazi Germany is not easy, even for the Germans. To avoid any spoilers, I will end my recap of the actual story with that. 

I appreciated this story in part for the struggles it portrays for the German population at this time.  One did not have to be a Jew to find life difficult and dangerous in Germany.  Starting with a little girl who has lost her parents for reasons she doesn't know or understand and her brother's death.  She lives with a family who is poor and struggling day to day. And the utmost care must be taken at all times to stay on the 'right' side of the Nazi party or pay a price.  Just being the 'person you are' can put one in great danger.

I give The Book Thief five shots of five - and a Tissue Alert.

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