Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Book Review: The Book Thief

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 neighbours during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

I wish I could put into words just how much I adore this book. Do you want to read something that is so beautifully written it's almost poetic? Something that has you falling in love with every single character? Something that focuses on a young girl who is just as obsessed with the written word as you are? Then this is a story that you will treasure forever.

Set in the holocaust, this is not your run of the mile account of the Hitler reign. The Book Thief is narrated by Death. Yes, the scythe wielding, cloaked, skeleton figure is our storyteller and oh what a wonderful storyteller he is. Death foreshadows throughout the book, which adds to the sense of anticipation and dread you experience, and isn't that exactly what war does to a person? Has you worrying about when you or someone you love will lose their life? Instead of spoiling the events, I think this only increased my heartache when the inevitable happened and I will freely admit that this book has me sobbing uncontrollably at points.

Zusak's characters are utterly perfect. Each individual is full of flaws, interesting, rich and so full of love and kindness that it breaks your heart. Despite despising a few characters at points, Zusak let's us see qualities in everyone that are so completely human and endearing and it's this that has you weeping for every loss encountered.

There's a dark humour laced within the pages, uplifting what could be an extremely depressing subject. Death's observations of human behaviours, the characters attitudes to one another and normal behaviours in such a tense time are what bring this novel to life.

The writing in The Book Thief is the thing which makes this book one of my favourites. The story is strong, the characters are wonderful, but Markus Zusak's writing is hauntingly beautiful. Zusak has proved himself to be a poet, a lyricist, an artist and a literary genius. Yes, I said genius. That's how strongly I feel about this piece of work. This is a story about the power of words. Words brought Liesel to life, built a foundation for her most treasured relationships, and were what brought Hitler to power, and Zusak captures this with his own writing style perfectly.

As I said, there's no way I could ever articulate my love for The Book Thief. I've read it quite a few times now, and fall a little more every time I flick through it's pages. Please, please, please read it if you've not already. And do it before the film's released.

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

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