Nataliya's Reviews > The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
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Jul 02, 12

bookshelves: favorites, awesome-kickass-heroines, excellent-reads, 2011-reads, for-my-future-hypothetical-daughter, 2012-reads, i-also-saw-the-film
Recommended to Nataliya by: Mark Oshiro's blog
Recommended for: People who have their handkerchiefs/Kleenex box handy
Read from January 30, 2011 to May 01, 2012 — I own a copy, read count: 2


Wow. Words cannot describe how much I loved this book, what impact it had on me. But, like Liesel, words is all I have, so I will have to try.


This is a lyrical, poignant, heartbreaking, soul-shattering story disjointedly told by a nearly-omniscient, fascinated by humans narrator - Death. (***I must confess that I kept imagining Death as the small-caps speaking Grim Reaper from Pratchett's Discworld, baffled by humans and loving cats and curry. Don't judge me - I needed a glimpse of fun in the bleakness of Zusak's story.*** ) Death has plenty to keep it busy, as the story is set in Nazi Germany during World War II.
""Please believe me when I tell you that I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born. I even kissed a few weary, poisoned cheeks. I listened to their last, gasping cries. Their vanishing words. I watched their love visions and freed them from their fear.""
And yet he becomes strangely fascinated with one particular human, the titular book thief, a young German girl Liesel Meminger, whose childhood is marked by war, who learns to read and love and treasure books, who has her small rebellions against the force of society, who learns to love and be loved. Who has to learn to lose what she loves. Because the world is baffling, because it is a cruel place, because often it tries to stomp out love and beauty.
"I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that's where they begin. Their great skills is their capacity to escalate."
The book is beautifully surreal, with the masterfully written language reflecting the alien, non-understandable, strangely fascinating nature of the narrator - Death. It is the mix of colors and strange metaphors, semi-dictionary entries and frequent strange asides, with skipping time, with complete disregard for spoilers.
"Of course, I'm being rude. I'm spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it. I have given you two events in advance, because I don't have much interest in building mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. "
It will note the strangest things, ruminate about the weirdest subjects, and casually in the middle of a lyrical passage, omnisciently will tell us that terrible things are about to occur. It is its job to know, after all. And this prescience does not soften the blows when they finally come; it only brings anticipatory dread and loving appreciation for things and people while they still ARE.
"(view spoiler)."


Love. Beauty. And books. This is what the story set against the terrible backdrop of war is about. Zusak accomplished a difficult feat - making me ache for the children of the enemy, the children and people of Nazi Germany, because even when caught in the middle of destruction, even ending up on different sides of artificial barricades people are still people, still deserving of love, still beautiful.

This book is the ode to those who kept their humanity in the middle of war, who were so human that nothing could ever change that. Rudy Steiner, the boy with the "hair the color of lemons", who has so much love and integrity and life (view spoiler), who was by Liesel's side since the beginning of their friendship - "A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship." - Rudy, who dreamed about the kiss from Liesel (view spoiler)

"He does something to me, that boy. Every time. It’s his only detriment. He steps on my heart. He makes me cry."
Hans and Rosa Hubermann, who possessed so much integrity and courage, who became real parents to Liesel, who risked everything for what they thought was right. Max Vandenburg, the Jewish fistfighter, who dreamed of battling Hitler and gave Liesel the perfect gift with everything he had.
"[...] Papa, you saved me. You taught me to read. No one can play like you. I'll never drink champagne. No one can play like you."

"Make no mistake, the woman had a heart. She had a bigger one that people would think. There was a lot in it, stored up, high in miles of hidden shelving. Remember that she was the woman with the instrument strapped to her body in the long, moon-slit night."
"
And Liesel herself, lost and broken, but finding comfort and strength in family, friends, and books. Liesel, who learns more about the cold cruelty of this world than most children should ever know. Liesel, who learns to read from the Gravedigger's handbook, who rescues the book from fire, who would rather steal books than food, who is not afraid to show kindness in the face of very real threat, who finally gives Rudy that overdue kiss, who fascinates even Death itself. All of them remained human despite the circumstances, despite the pressure to do otherwise, despite anything. And I love them for that.

This is a wonderful, lyrical, surreal, excellent book that broke my heart into tiny little pieces and yet gave me hope that even in the worst of times we can find beauty. 5 stars is not enough, but this is all I can give.
"I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right."

-----------------
DISCLAIMER: This is the first review that I've wrote after working four 14-hour days in a row followed by endless reading of textbooks and paperwork, all sore from endless and painful retracting in surgery, having composed this review in my head as a means to not pass out from hunger in the endless surgery. So if something in it seems incoherent - that's why.
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Quotes Nataliya Liked

Markus Zusak
“It's a lot easier, she realized, to be on the verge of something than to actually be it. This would still take time.”
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Markus Zusak
“I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that's where they begin. Their great skills is their capacity to escalate.”
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief


Comments (showing 1-50 of 56) (56 new)


Stephanie I love this book.


Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews) "He does something to me, that boy. Every time. It’s his only detriment. He steps on my heart. He makes me cry."

That quote and that character break my heart every time I think of this book.

Beautiful review. This is one of those books that is so powerful and perfect - your review captures it perfectly!


Nataliya Stephanie wrote: "I love this book."

I absolutely love it as well. So touching, and narrated so well!

☆Baroness☆ Jessie (Ageless Pages Reviews) wrote: ""He does something to me, that boy. Every time. It’s his only detriment. He steps on my heart. He makes me cry."

That quote and that character break my heart every time I think of this book.

Beau..."


Thanks, Jessie! I completely agree. I actually cried when I got to (view spoiler) even though it was foreshadowed and 'spoiled' pages and pages before that.


Trudi Nataliya, your review is so gorgeous and heartfelt. You made me cry remembering this book so well!! I read it, and then last year I listened to it and I didn't think it was possible, but loved it even more. I completely lost my shit at one point and just SOBBED my heart out. This is one amazing, rare, gem of a story.


Lauren Touching review that wasn't at all incoherent. I read this back in 2007 and loved it to pieces. You captured that feeling perfectly in the tone of the book. I did not picture Pratchett since I had not read him yet. But yes that comparison had me laugh in your review.
I read MORT and Zuzasks I am the Messenger together during a four hour wait for my job's random drug screen a year later at least. :)

Death was the perfect narrator for such a setting. Who else to appreciate the beauty of this particular time lest it be crippling sad. We DID know how it would end.

I loved this book as well.


Frozenwaffle Beautiful review! I cried to the point of dehydration when I read The Book Thief earlier this year. But I also laughed.

It has such unique wording, focuses on such simple but powerful acts. Definately touched me.

I especially loved the thirteen presents and the books Max draws for her. :')


Evgenia Fantastic review! I love this book! It made me believe ( or not forget) that human nature could be beautiful!


Jonathan Great review for an amazing book!


message 9: by Ruby (new) - added it

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else] THIS is the first review to make me genuinely WANT to read this book. You know how it is when everyone tells you, you "MUST" read something? And it makes you want to set fire to it out of sheer spite? No? Okay that's just probably me then. But your review did the opposite for me. Nice one :)


logankstewart Y'know, it's been about 2 years or so since I read this book and my heart still aches for the way it all ended. Such a wonderful read, one that I've recommended so many times. Great review! Thanks for bringing my mind back to this terribly lovely story.


Elizabeth I agree - it is on my favorites list. The hunger for reading and books, expressed through the characters is amazing.


message 12: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill A heroic review, well done!


Keith Chawgo This was one of my all time favourite books when it comes out and it is the one I tend to buy people for their birthdays and holidays. It is one of the few books that wells up my heart. Pure excellence with every syllable.


Catie Lady, you amaze me! I can't believe you wrote this in your head during hours of surgery, sleepless nights, and hunger. This review is simply perfect, and one of my favorite reviews for one of my favorite books. Well done!


message 15: by Kay (new) - added it

Kay Gorgeous review. Well done indeed!


Nataliya Thanks to all of you for the kind words! They give me this nice warm and fuzzy feeling when I'm about to lose my mind at work - and then I steal a quick glance at my smartphone and feel like I'm not horribly incompetent at something! (Being a brand new intern can sure make you feel helpless, incompetent and stupid, I gotta say!)

Catie wrote: "Lady, you amaze me! I can't believe you wrote this in your head during hours of surgery, sleepless nights, and hunger. This review is simply perfect, and one of my favorite reviews for one of my ..."

Thanks so much for the kind words, Catie! I realized that when I'm tired and exhausted, going to my happy 'book space' in my head actually helps bring the focus back as well as help me forget about physical pain in long hours of assisting in surgery. I hope these sudden bouts of inspiration happen more often! ;)

Ruby wrote: "THIS is the first review to make me genuinely WANT to read this book. You know how it is when everyone tells you, you "MUST" read something? And it makes you want to set fire to it out of sheer spi..."

I am SO glad that I helped bring a new reader to this amazing book! I hope you do read it and love it!


message 17: by Ian (new)

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch I love this review.


message 18: by Arun (new)

Arun Divakar Hats off Nataliya ! It's a very beautiful review.


Nataliya Thanks, Ian and Arun!


message 20: by Jurgen_i (new) - added it

Jurgen_i Very good review, Nataliya, nothing incoherent! You're so incentive that this awesome book moves to a priority-read shelf, LOL.

Periods of high strain often give a sort of perfect clarity, even if one doesn't understand it. At least it works so with me.


Nataliya Thanks, Jurgen! I hope that you will read it and love it as much as I did!
You're right, sometimes a lot of stress and strain provide the moments of clarity - I guess as a sort of compensation.


message 22: by Pooja (new) - added it

Pooja Hi! First of all, I have to say, a very nice review. I'll be sure to read it as soon as I can.
If you like this book, you have to read Paper Stars. It a beautifully written book set in the World War II. It is temporarily available here for free, before it gets published:
http://www.wattpad.com/story/992074-p...
Please read it as soon as you can. I'm sure you won't regret it.


message 23: by Pooja (new) - added it

Pooja Hi! First of all, I have to say, a very nice review. I'll be sure to read it as soon as I can.
If you like this book, you have to read Paper Stars. It a beautifully written book set in the World War II. It is temporarily available here for free, before it gets published:
http://www.wattpad.com/story/992074-p...
Please read it as soon as you can. I'm sure you won't regret it.


Nataliya Thanks, Pooja. I hope you enjoy 'The Book Thief' if you do read it. It's a wonderful book.

Unfortunately, I will pass on reading the book you linked to for now. I only have very limited time now as I spend most of my time working or reading for work, and I already have a pretty long list of books to get through despite my crazy schedule.


Courtney Vail Great review. I loved this book too.


Nataliya Courtney wrote: "Great review. I loved this book too."

Thanks, Courtney! It's hard not to like this book!


Sandy Beautiful! Your review is almost as poignant as the book Nataliya - another of my top favourites and I loved the idea of Death as the narrator.


Nataliya Thanks, Sandy!


Ceecee I can't get over this book, even after 2 years. (Especially the complete disregard for spoilers, and the way I was still heartbroken despite knowing what will happen)D':


Nataliya Ceecee wrote: "I can't get over this book, even after 2 years. (Especially the complete disregard for spoilers, and the way I was still heartbroken despite knowing what will happen)D':"

Having Death telling us all the 'spoilers' was what helped it make an impact on me. Knowing what was coming made it even worse.


Chance Maree Grand review for a incredible novel!


Nataliya Chance wrote: "Grand review for a incredible novel!"

Thanks!


message 33: by Darth Fierce (new) - added it

Darth Fierce Another gret review though it is spoiler alert heaven so i had to skip great portions of it! I've been wondering if it is something I'd want to read and you've helped convince me it is.


Nataliya Michael wrote: "Another gret review though it is spoiler alert heaven so i had to skip great portions of it! I've been wondering if it is something I'd want to read and you've helped convince me it is."

I'm really glad that you plan to read this one! And as for spoilers - I hope I hid all the real ones under spoiler tags, didn't I? I was trying to not give away too much of the plot - mostly things that are either hinted at by Death pretty early on or are clear from the book synopsis. I hope I didn't fail at that too much.


message 35: by Janet (new)

Janet Harrison Natalia - all I can say is if you perform surgery the way you write reviews then you can operate on me any time! Great review of my all time favourite book. Actually it wasn't a book - it was a work of art. Thank you for doing it justice x


Novie Chryss There's a lump in my throat after reading your review. This is a heartbreaking review but a beautiful piece nonetheless. It pulled me back to the times I was reading the book and how devastated I was when I reached the part where Munich was destroyed. Great review Nataliya!


Nataliya Novie Chryss wrote: "There's a lump in my throat after reading your review. This is a heartbreaking review but a beautiful piece nonetheless. It pulled me back to the times I was reading the book and how devastated I w..."

Thanks, Novie Chryss! It was quite a heartbreaking book, wasn't it?


Anushka Its a beautiful review. That's exactly how I felt after reading the book.


Nataliya Anushka wrote: "Its a beautiful review. That's exactly how I felt after reading the book."

Thanks, Anushka!


message 40: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike A beautiful review, timely discovered. I found a copy in a second-hand store and called up GR on the smartphone. Saw your review and knew I had to have it. I have been reading The Bravest Battle: The Twenty-eight Days of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, day-for-day on the 70th anniversary of that battle. Have been building up a big hate on the Germans for the atrocities against the Warsaw Jews (despite my living in Germany for six years and loving the place). This book looks like it will even me out, plenty of tragedy to go around and good people on both sides caught in the war.


Nataliya Mike wrote: "A beautiful review, timely discovered. I found a copy in a second-hand store and called up GR on the smartphone. Saw your review and knew I had to have it. I have been reading The Bravest Battle: T..."

Thanks, Mike! You know, that is what I love about this book the most - how it's able to humanize people on both sides of the war. It's so easy to forget that so many of the people on the other side were caught in this war regardless of their wishes, having been deceived by those in power, and really, haven't bee asked whether they wanted to be there, which is the sad reality of any war.

I hope you end up loving this book, too. It's lovely and sad.


laurenpie I was deeply intrigued by Zuzak's "complete disregard for spoilers" (to use your apt description). Who would have thought an author could make spoilers feel so right and perfect and natural? Thank you for a WONDERFUL review of a devastatingly beautiful novel.


Nataliya laurenpie wrote: "I was deeply intrigued by Zuzak's "complete disregard for spoilers" (to use your apt description). Who would have thought an author could make spoilers feel so right and perfect and natural? Than..."

I was really amazed at how waiting for the events spelled out for the reader from the beginning made it even more heartbreaking, making the reader treasure the moments of this book knowing how certain things would end. Sometimes knowing in advance makes the wait painfully and devastatingly unbearable, and this was the technique Zusak used so well.


Amanda Your review is fantastic, Nataliya. I admire your use of graphic and quotes to better explain your love for this book. You basically explained all of my emotions for this book in words.


Nataliya Amanda wrote: "Your review is fantastic, Nataliya. I admire your use of graphic and quotes to better explain your love for this book. You basically explained all of my emotions for this book in words."

Thanks, Amanda!


message 46: by Alan (last edited Sep 20, 2013 12:18AM) (new)

Alan Sheinwald The review like the book is unsettling and unsentimental, yet ultimately poetic


Nataliya Alan wrote: "The review like the book is unsettling and unsentimental, yet ultimately poetic."

Thanks, Alan!


Steph I so loved this book as well. I was bawling by the end of it.


Nataliya Steph wrote: "I so loved this book as well. I was bawling by the end of it."

I was a mess of tears and snot and red puffy eyes by the time I got to the last page.


message 50: by Aarzoo (new) - added it

Aarzoo Minx I always look forward to read your reviews. Good job!


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