Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief

HERE IS A SMALL FACT – YOU ARE GOING TO DIE. 

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.

Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.

SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION – THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH.

It’s a small story, about: a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.

ANOTHER THING YOU SHOULD KNOW – DEATH WILL VISIT THE BOOK THIEF THREE TIMES

Let’s get this out of the way before we start: I was incredibly late in the game with this book. Shocking, I know, but I have read it now and all is well.

If, like me, you’re late and you have not managed to read The Book Thief yet, I urge you to. To quote Bernard Black – “This book is very, very good. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll change your life.” The word good here seems like an understatement. This book is beautiful.

If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen my reaction as soon as I finished but in an attempt to be more coherent and less dramatic (though the drama of that text message was very, very justified), I will continue; I was very tempted just to leave you with that link and allow you to infer at your pleasure.

This is a book you need to own and a book you need to shout about to every single person you know (as I did, my best friend’s response a few days later was to send me a picture of my copy, damp with her tears). Zusak is a king among authors.

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to like the narration, omnipotently told by Death, but I really, really did. Unlike most omnipotent narrators, this one is given a real character and feels involved with the story. Zusak’s writing style is so easy to read, even with intermingled German phrases. At times very lyrical, I was blown away by the imagery in the descriptions of characters like Rosa Hubermann – I am a sucker for imagery, especially when done well and this certainly was.

As protagonists go, Liesel is pretty spectacular. Her spirit, her love of reading and her thirst to learn sings out from the pages and makes it hard not to connect with her. She is precious and I found myself wanting to hold her close and keep her safe various times throughout the novel. She is matched with a rag-tag cast of supporting characters who feel as dear to me as Liesel herself. Two words: Max Vandenburg.

I have said this before and I will say it again: You have to read this book.

You must be warned, however; The Book Thief  is painful. My chest still hurts a little when I think about it (a sign of a good book!). If you need a good cry, get to the end of this book. It will provide.

Design-wise, it gets an A*.

Seriously. Buy it.

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