Sunday, June 23, 2013

Book Review: "The Book Thief"

"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak
First published in 2006
550 pages
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
(image source)

"The Book Thief" is a Holocaust story about a German girl who is both ordinary and extraordinary. Liesel Meminger is just 9 years old when she boards a train with her mother and little brother in 1939. They're headed to a small town outside of Munich, where the children will be given to a foster family. Liesel's brother dies en route, and as she's tearfully leaving his gravesite she noticed a small black book nestled in the snow and picks it up. These events will forever change Liesel's life.

Liesel's new parents are the Hubermanns of Himmel Street; Rosa  is a small woman fond of brandishing wooden spoons and swearing, and Hans is a tall, gentle man, an accordionist and a painter.

Unable to read but feeling as though she must know the contents of the book she stole at the cemetery, she asks her foster father to teach her. And almost immediately, when Liesel is still struggling with the simplest of words, a great passion for books begins to flare up in her. Books -- and the occasional stealing of reading material -- become a defining part of Liesel's world, and she develops not only a love for reading but also a respect for the awesome power of words.

"The Book Thief" is not a typical World War II story, and it's not a typical book either. Markus Zusak has penned a truly original tale, told by our unusual narrator, Death. The writing style is completely different from any book I've read before, and it was so masterful and lyrical and beautifully done.

There wasn't much suspense, or romance, or mystery in "The Book Thief" -- it was just an interesting story well-told, and I loved it. You won't regret picking up this tale of a Jew, a promise, a lemon-haired Jesse Owens, stale cookies on a window ledge, a snowman and a young girl who steals books.

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