Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

Well, here's a first........I actually cried whilst sitting in the hairdressers chair yesterday, reading this book!! I couldn't stop reading it, though and after a brief pause whilst I rummaged for a tissue, blew my nose and wiped my eyes, I quickly opened up the book again to carry on where I had left off. I have never been good at sad, scary, violent or bloody books (or films come to that) and I usually choose not to read books of this nature. I get entirely engrossed in the story and identify so strongly with the characters that I sometimes feel as if I know them as well as any relative of mine. When my boys were small I cried for weeks after watching Bambi and The Land Before Time with them, I'm sure I would do the same if I was to see the videos again today. So imagine the scuffle I had with my conscience when I was deciding whether to read this book or not. I had seen so many glowing reviews about The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak and the title had featured on many of my fellow bloggers 'Best Book of all Time' and 'Most Memorable Book' lists. I kept seeing pictures of the front cover and I found it haunting, so, when a copy appeared in the secondhand bookshop, I had to bring it home. I stared at it on the TBR pile for a while and even put off reading it by escaping into a couple of romantic romps with Ms Jewell and Ms Fforde, but, still it beckoned and so, I took a deep breath and opened the front cover. I am so glad I did.
The book begins in 1939 and is set in pre-war Germany. Liesel Meminger and her brother are taking a train journey with their mother when the boy dies from a coughing fit, in his mothers arms. Unbeknown to Liesel, her mother and father have both been accused of being communists. Her father has been taken away by the authorities and since then Liesel's mother has been unable to find work. Ultimately she and her children are starving. and so she has decided the only way to save them is to put them into foster care. They are on their way to meet with the social worker for the hand over, when the boy dies. And that is only the beginning!!
Her foster parents are kindhearted folk and her 'papa', Hans Hubermann, is the gentlest of men. He teaches her to read and she falls in love with books. The story is about love and friendship, literature, kindness, man's inhumanity to man, the morality of theft and ultimately, death. It is thought provoking, heartbreakingly sad and un-put-downable.
And in the rhythm of the narrator here is some important information about The Book Thief:

*This novel is narrated by Death*
It is a story, about:

*A Girl*

*An Accordionist*

*Some Fanatical Germans*

*A Jewish Fist Fighter*


*and Quite a Lot of Thievery*
This is one of the most remarkable books I have ever read. Markus Zusak turns conventional storytelling on it's head and yet still manages to make the book so totally compelling that on several occasions I found myself reading on through my tears. It is not all totally depressing either, there are some lovely moments in the story which capture the essence of humanity at its finest.
Here are a couple of notes which appear throughout the book from the narrator:
(About Germany)
Since 1933, ninety percent of Germans showed
unflinching support for Adolf Hilter.
That leaves ten percent who didn't.
Hans Hubermann belonged to that ten percent.
There was a reason for that.
(About Friendship)
(An excerpt from Death's Diary)
I do not carry a sickle of scythe.
I only wear a hooded black robe when it is cold.
And I don't have those skull-like
features you seem to enjoy
pinning on me from a distance. You
want to know what I truly look like?
I'll help you out. Find yourself
a mirror while I continue.
(About War)
I've seen so many young men
over the years who think that they are
running at other young men.
They are not.
They are running at me.

Have you read this book? (If not, why not :)

What did you think of it?


  1. So glad to hear you loved this book Kim - it was my best read of last year and I still talk about it to anyone who will listen!

  2. Kim, I'm so glad that you read this, it isn't a 'nice' book but I think that it is one of the best that I have ever read about the Holocaust. It too made me cry and I still find myself thinking about it months after I read the last page.

  3. I loved this book. Using Death as a narrator made it unique and very special. Some of the scenes were so touching. It didn't move me to tears, but I did have a little lump in my throat on occasions. Great review!

  4. I cried reading this as well, a very moving and impressive book.

  5. Karen, isn't it funny, I do exactly the same thing when I like a book, I just can't stop talking about it. I will often say to my husband 'This is a great book' and he says 'Another one. Where do you find all these great books?' That is his attempt to divert me away from me telling him all the details of the story ;)

  6. Dot, this is definitely a book to remember. Both the story and the way in which it is narrated is quite unique. I like the fact that the stereotype of Death is upturned and really enjoyed the direct way in which facts are uncovered as characters unfold, almost to the point of feeling there was too much information being revealed. Unforgetable, that's for sure.

  7. Thanks Jackie. It was a unique book and I also didn't expect the ending to turn out the way it did, either. It made me think long and hard about the dilema people faced during those times in Germany and I would like to think I would have been one of the 10%, but who knows?

  8. Hope your crying experience wasn't as public as mine, adevotedreader! It is a very moving book, you are right.
    How are the plans for your China trip coming along? I'll be posting more stuff about Hong Kong soon, too.

  9. What a great review! I was on the fence about reading this book, but you've convinced me. I'll remember not to bring it with me to the hairdresser...I'm a crier, too. ;-) I Just clicked over from a comment you left on Jackie's blog -nice to meet you!

  10. JoAnn, thanks for dropping by, nice to meet you too. The Book Thief is the best book I have read this year, in fact, the best book I have read for a very long time. It is sad in parts, but, it wouldn't be the same if it wasn't. I do hope you get to read it, I would love to know what your thoughts were.

  11. A wonderful review of a truly wonderful book!

  12. Thank you, Simon. I really enjoyed this book it was so unusual and very thought provoking.