The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
Original Publishing Date: January 1, 2005
Length: 552 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Obtained Via: Borrowed from the Library
Format Read In: Hardback
View from the Traffic Light:
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.
Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who 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.
In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
Opening lines:First the colors.
Then the humans.
That’s usually how I see things.
Or at least, I try.
The Book Thief is the first book I’ve re-read(besides my annual Harry Potter re-read) since I started blogging. A few weeks ago, I started CRAVING a re-read of this book. I think the movie trailer had something to do with it, but all I knew was that I needed to read this book, and the sooner the better. I was able to borrow a copy from the library, and the story is every bit as moving and beautiful as I remembered it.
I read this book for the first time before it had really started to become popular, about a year after it had been released. The librarian at my high school recommended it to me, and the first page seemed interesting enough. I had no idea that I was entering a story that would both warm my heart and break it all at the same time.
The narration of death is what makes this book unique, of course, but even without it I think it would be a stunning and moving book. The extra narration really adds to the feel of World War II, and I like the bird eye view of humanity. It made me feel so close and yet distant from the story depending on how it was being told. The way that words play such a large role in this book have always affected me as a lover of words.
I have hated the words
and I have loved them
And I hope I have made them right.
Out of every line of every book ever written that I’ve read, I think this is the one that may have struck a chord with me the most. There’s something profoundly moving about the power of words, and their weight(including the not-so-great parts at time), set against the bleak backdrop of Nazi Germany.
The story behind The Book Thief seems quite simple on the surface. Liesel is sent to her foster family, and they live a life. A life that includes hardship, but some beauty, and a boy who quickly becomes Liesel’s best friend. A life that includes quite a bit of words and books and the hiding of a Jew in Nazi Germany, and includes quite a bit of side effects of the war. At it’s essence, this is Liesel’s story, one that is just her life story but also contains nothing “just” about the story she tells with her life.
There is so much pain and beauty in this book that it’s hard to put it into words. I am not sure I personally am making the words right to capture this stunning story, but I do know that this is a book that has lingered with me for years. Liesel, Rudy, the Jewish fist-fighter, the words, the accordion, the stealing, and death. A string of words that may not mean anything if you haven’t read this book, but also a string of words that may bring back the memories of this haunting story if you had read it. So if you haven’t read this book yet, if you read perhaps these words will mean something. They certainly do to me.
Final Impression: There’s a reason this book is mentioned. It deserves every bit of recognition it gets and the more I read the story, the more I fall in love with it. It’s beautiful, and heart-breaking, but also deeply moving. Liesel’s life includes so many things–friends and family and heartbreaks and secrets– all exacerbated by the backdrop of war and Hitler. World War II isn’t a time period I typically enjoy reading about, but this book is so, so much more than a war story. This re-read has solidified this book as one of my all-time favorites. 5/5 cupcakes.