The Book Thief

The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak

Overview: One of the most enduring stories of our time, The Book Thief is 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.

Deanna Boe (04/15/19: Another fantastic novel recommended to me by my cousin. How did I miss this one? It was written the year I retired, so perhaps there was too much happening in my life then? I hadn’t started to write book reviews, I do know that. It was written in 2005 and I do appreciate how it can be good to go back and read books you might have missed or for that matter, read again.

There are so many excellent books that have been written about WW II. This one is especially unique since the “voice” telling us the story is “Death” or the “Grim Reaper.” Amazingly enough he adds such a personal touch to the taking of people’s souls, wonderful compassion. Death cradles them in his hands as he continues to look all around at the chaos that might be happening or as found in the writing of this story, the destruction of war. We find “Death” talking to us as he takes the souls of little ones, old people, soldiers, and characters you have come to love and respect throughout the book. Death shows us empathy that many of us might not have felt, a gentleness we all can only hope for when it is time for us to be carried away in his arms. Death continues to be amazed at mankind, the destruction and hate we have for each other; mankind keeps him extremely busy, especially during war.

The storyline centers on a young girl, Liesel, who has been delivered to a German couple to live with. We are never exactly sure what her background was or why she is forced to live with them. We do know that her young brother, who was traveling with her died on the train, again how or why we are not told. We do know that her life drastically changes when she is at his gravesite and picks up a book by the title “The Gravediggers Handbook.” Why? Liesel does not know how to read and this is how the storyline develops. The man she now lives with, “Papa”, takes compassion on her when she cannot sleep at night and slowly starts to teach her how to read from this unique handbook. This is the first book she stole but not the last. This is how she earned the title “The Book Thief.”

The other main characters in the story are the foster mother, who is very abrupt and seems callous, but turns out to have a caring heart. We have a Jewish man, Max, who abruptly shows up at their door as a last resort for somewhere to go. His father and “Papa” had been great f riends during WW I and his name had been given to him as a possible place to hide. They take him in and he lives in their shallow and cold basement for quite a length of time. Max and Liesel become good friends. Then we have Rudy who is Liesel’s “boyfriend” for lack of a better word to describe their close relationship. He is a wonderful and caring young boy who captures your heart and cries when he dies. What becomes of Liesel? Is her soul carried off with the others when the Allies bomb their small community? Guess you will have to read this wonderful book to find out all the answers.
Rating: *****

Julia McDermott (03/29/16): I loved this book! I had seen the film a few years ago, and I really liked it, but the novel was absolutely brilliant. As a writer, I learned a lot from the way this author told the story. The descriptions were wonderful, and I was riveted by the story. It's a wonderful thing that this book is available. My daughter read it before I did, and I texted her as soon as I finished it saying that I absolutely loved it.
Rating: *****

Judy Copek (07/27/14): I had heard a lot about this book and am so glad our book club decided to read it. The idea of "death" as the narrator was brilliant and all the characters were so eloquently drawn. The hints of what would happen in the future created a lot of suspense, and though sad and even tragic, the story was often happy as people took care of each other and made the best of their dire situations. I really do love The Book Thief. I'll never hear accordion music the same again.
Rating: *****

Chris Mehling: Excuse my repeat reviews, but I tend to read or purchase a book after reading them from Women's Book Reviews! I totally agree with the reviews on this book! It was so well written and had such an interesting perspective being told by "death" in the historical World War II era in Germany. The main character (12 year old Liesel) is illiterate living with foster parents in a town in Germany during a horrible time. I have not read many books about this era, but this story was told in such a way the book seemed to take on a life of its own. From Liesel learning to read, to reading to others, to writing in her own words. When I finished I just sat and reflected, on the story, the characters, and this horrific period of time. It was very moving and I would love it if there was a sequel, to hear the rest of Liesel's story.
Rating: *****

Wanda Cohen: Run, don't walk, to buy this book. I agree with everything that Kathy said. This is a treasure of a book and Markus is a genius. The words are so well used that they, themselves, become characters in this book. It isn't often that a gift like this comes along. You owe it to yourself not to miss this one. It reassures us that the English language might survive the IT age after all.
Rating: *****

Kathy McCurry: Wow! This author is an Artist with Words. This is among the most stunning books I've ever read. The author's unique ability to play with words in such a way that together they capture and create atmosphere is amazing. Having read numerous books about the horrible period of history that Germany in WWII was, the narrative provided by 'death' brings a totally new perspective. The main character - a 12 year old girl is richly captured in all of her complexity and innocence, as are the events of her life. But, the perspective from 'death' as an impartial and even compassionate 'player' is what adds a new dimension to this well-covered time in history. Perhaps a sequel is in the works? One can only hope as the reader is left wondering how the rest of the young girl's life transpired. I highly recommend this book - prepare to be captivated by the writing first, and the story as well.
Rating: *****

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