Terri (Reading By Starlight)'s Reviews > The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
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Dec 12, 11

bookshelves: fiction, young-adult
Read from November 13 to 21, 2011

Zusak won the Printz award in 2007 for “The Book Thief,” John Green loved it, fellow book bloggers raved about it: by all accounts, I’d been missing something truly epic by not reading it until now.

Death was the narrator and lens for the entire novel, and I really, really liked that. You know, even as you’re reading, that the characters die, because everyone dies, and that Death is looking back at their lives as he has looked at billions of lives before theirs. It lent an air of suspense because he told you one of the characters dies young, so I kept waiting for that person to die and they just kept living, chapter after chapter until the last quarter or so of the book. I didn’t want him to die, but when the narrator says he’s going to, I can’t help but expect that to happen on the next page.

Liesel falls in love with words and stories. She read whatever she could get her hands on, no matter what it was. She didn’t have access to fairy tales with princesses and heroes with dashing horses and silver swords, but she loved the stories she found and treasured them. It made me appreciate the fact that I have the privilege to be selective about what I read, that I skim over the ingredients on the cereal box and countless other words on a daily, hourly basis without thinking about it, because reading and words are as ubiquitous to me as breathing air or drinking water.

What really makes the book, though, is the setting. Each and every page, event, character, and dialogue reminds you that this is Nazi Germany. This character might die in two paragraphs just for looking at someone in the wrong way. The tension regarding Jews in the community (or hiding in the basement), the lack of food, the cold, the political pressure on Hans Huberman, Liesel’s book thieving: it all circles back to Hitler and the negative effect he had on Germans and the world. You could feel the fear, but the defiance was more powerful. Liesel stole books and read what Hitler would not have wanted her to read. Hans Huberman didn’t hate Jews, and hid Max in the basement when Hitler would have put him in a concentration camp. These characters were hardened and made brave by a terrible time in history, and they were so very strong through it all.

I liked The Book Thief and it lived up to the hype. It wasn’t what I expected, but I’m very glad of that.
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