It’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.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.
Pages: 550 (paperback)
Rating:10 out of 10
Source: Purchased from the Regulator book store in Durham, NC
I was excited to be able to pick next selection for the DC area book club I joined when we came to the area. When The Book Thief by Mark Zusak came out a few years ago, I read lots of wonderful reviews around the blogosphere. As I was browsing the Regulator book store in Durham one fine day, I saw the Book Thief had come out in paperback and I made the purchase! I was excited and curious to finally begin this novel to see if it lived up to the buzz. After reading quite a few "okay books," I was thrilled that the Book Thief stole my heart immediately and kept me wanting more as I turned the pages. As soon as I started, I was drawn into the book. I found the story of Liesel very compelling. The book made my commute seem short and when we had long flights and a layover on a recent trip to Jamaica, the story made the time go quickly.
One of the things which made the story so compelling to me is that the story is told from the perspective of death. Death gives us insight into Nazi Germany, war, and anti-semitism. However, death makes the experience more human and accessible by sharing with us the story of Liesel. I loved her relationships with her foster parents, her best friend Rudy, and Max, the Jewish person her family hid in the basement. Another central part of the story is Liesel's relationship to books and how learning to read saves her life. I found it so poetic and tear inducing that each book theft was connected to a significant event in Liesel's life. At various points in the book, I found myself crying at the sweetness of interactions between the characters-- Liesel and Rudy, Liesel and her papa, Liesel and her mama, Liesel and Max.
Another aspect of the novel I really enjoyed is the way in which the complexity of the characters is developed. The conflict between wanting to fit in with the majority so as to not be harassed and following your conscious comes across in the decision of Liesel's parents to take in a Jewish person. I also loved the stories that Max shared with Liesel and the scene where she steps into the parade of Jewish people marching through her town is heart breaking. Many points in the book illustrate how even in the worst of times, the best of the human spirit emerges.
I am looking forward to the book club discussion of this book.
I am also counting the book for the following challenges: