Relyn's Reviews > The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
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Jul 26, 08

Recommended to Relyn by: I've seen it everywhere
Recommended for: Yikes! I didn't like it. So, no one.
Read in July, 2008

7/22/08
I have seen this book everywhere. I'm finally ready to sit down and read it. Yippie!

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7/25
OK, I know that almost no one is going to agree with me, but I really didn't like this book. I hear about it everywhere and about how wonderful it is. Not for me. I really thought the narrative device was trite. Death as a narrator? Death, who ate colors and was kind and sympathetic? WHAT?? It just doesn't work for me. Plus, the story line is extremely disjointed. I didn't even finish the book; didn't even go to the back to see what happened. I just didn't care enough. Do I need to tell you how rare that is?

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I have read quite a bit of Holocaust literature, especially in the young adult genre. I really like that genre. There are many, many excellent books about the Holocaust that have not earned near the attention or the acclaim of this one. Here are just a few Jewish Holocaust and WWII books that I thought were amazing. Of course, there is Diary of a Young Girl, but here are some others.

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen - This book is an incredible interweaving of fairytale and memory. This is simply one amazing book. Interestingly, it has been on several banned book lists.

Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen - This Holocaust tale by the same author is nothing short of amazing. Showtime made it into a movie staring Claire Danes that was pretty good.

Malka by Mirjam Pressler - This is one of my mom's favorite books. I think it is for an older audience even though it is often listed under children's literature. I found it very a difficult read - emotionally speaking. Probably too harsh for tweens. Nearly too harsh, at one point, for me.

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli - This one, I love. Really love. Somehow, this is a quiet book. Powerful. I want to get this written, so I will stop now. It would take me an hour of contemplation just to come up with a description that does this book justice. This is not just a Holocaust book. This is a book about what it means to be human.

In My Hands by Irene Opdike - This true story is just amazing. If your girl needs a heroine, hand her this book.

?????? - There is another great Holocaust book I am wracking my brain and scouring the internet to find. Disney made a Sunday Night movie called Friendship in Vienna based on this book. Booth the book and the movie were amazing. The author was Austrian and her last name started with an O. Can anybody help me?

Night Crossing by Karen Ackerman - This read like a great suspense story, but it was all true. Great introduction to the genre for younger aged children.

Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig - This is one of my most favorite books from childhood. I read it in fifth or sixth grade and have loved it ever since. I think this book was really the first time I deeply and truly understood that the real triumph is love.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill - If you know me at all, you will know how I am with favorites. I can never pick just one favorite. I love so many different things, types, styles, colors, etc. When I say that I love no book more than The Hiding Place; when I tell you that this is my most favorite book in the world; it is not small praise.
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Comments (showing 1-43 of 43) (43 new)

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Alcornell I'm sure some agree with you. I don't, but I see others do. Just wanted to thank you for the suggestions of other good books..appreciate it.


Relyn You are welcome. I enjoyed writing it. I love children's literature and holocaust literature in particular. I'd be interested to hear what you think of some of them.


Ginette Although I am one of those who loves this book, I appreciated your thoughtful comments. And thank you for the list of books you suggested. Will be adding them to my to-read list!


Relyn So many people loved it that I am wondering if I should give it another try.


Sofia When I first read The Book Thief, I found the plot confusing and my half-asleep brain just couldn't handle the sentences Zusak came up with. Then, I read it two years later when I was slightly more awake, and I absolutely loved it. I'd say you should give it another shot.

By the way, I totally agree with you on Milkweed. I'm not going to put up my opinion on it, for it would be extremely redundant.

A book recommendation:

Bondi's Brother by Irving Roth and Edward Roth.

It's a true story that a Holocaust survivor wrote with his son. You might not be able to find it, as I bought it directly from the man who wrote it, but you might be able to. It reads like a novel.


Tanya Maybe the book, The Devil in Vienna
by Doris Orgel, is the one the movie Friendship in Vienna was based upon.


Relyn Ginette wrote: "Although I am one of those who loves this book, I appreciated your thoughtful comments. And thank you for the list of books you suggested. Will be adding them to my to-read list!"

Ginette wrote: "Although I am one of those who loves this book, I appreciated your thoughtful comments. And thank you for the list of books you suggested. Will be adding them to my to-read list!"

Ginette,
Which ones did you try? Did you like them?


Relyn Tanya wrote: "Maybe the book, The Devil in Vienna
by Doris Orgel, is the one the movie Friendship in Vienna was based upon."


OH!!!!!!!! OH!!! If you were here, I would kiss you. A big bear hug at the minimum. That's it!! Thank you so much!! Gotta go check adall and buy it right now. Thanks again!


Relyn Sofia wrote: "When I first read The Book Thief, I found the plot confusing and my half-asleep brain just couldn't handle the sentences Zusak came up with. Then, I read it two years later when I was slightly more..."

Your book recommendation sounds fabulous. Thank you so much. I am off to search for it and Friendship in Vienna. Thank you.


message 10: by Donitello (new)

Donitello I must agree about The Hiding Place. Beautiful, powerful, incredible. I have read it over and over -- almost like a holy book of some kind. The Ten Booms are the ultimate "extraordinary ordinary people."


message 11: by Relyn (new) - rated it 1 star

Relyn Doni wrote: "I must agree about The Hiding Place. Beautiful, powerful, incredible. I have read it over and over -- almost like a holy book of some kind. The Ten Booms are the ultimate "extraordinary ordinary pe..."

Doni,

It is an incredible book, isn't it? Corrie ten Boom is one of my heroes. Some day I am going to get to Holland and visit the Beje.

So? Did you like The Book Thief?


message 12: by Donitello (last edited May 15, 2009 12:36PM) (new)

Donitello No, I'm afraid I agree with you on that, too.

Frankly, I see Zusak as just another "discovered" author, who wrote a few books previously, got an award for one of them, and was accepted by a major publisher and given a publicity budget on this basis alone. We aren't hearing about him because his book is good, but because corporate minds considered it a good bet.

This is happening all too frequently now. It seems the publishing industry has moved away from discovering great new writers, and toward a "this guy/gal seems to sell" mentality. This book was similar to many I find myself reading these days: No understanding of good storytelling, lots of literary gimmicks that draw attention to themselves.

I AM SO BUGGED BY THIS! I dearly hope the industry might turn a corner soon, and once again start recognizing good writing over seniority. Until then, I guess I'll stick with my current strategy of reading the many classics I never got to in college. It's the safer bet. I've had a few positive deviations from it, but not many, sad to say.

P.S. I also want to visit the Ten Boom house. What an inspiration!


message 13: by Irisjade (last edited Aug 31, 2009 04:09PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Irisjade Oh my gosh, I am the SAME way. I'm not sick or anything, but I LOVE Holocaust books; they are amazing. I LOVED Milkweed; it's really great. There are a couple of others that I've read you might enjoy:
Stones In Water by Donna Jo Napoli (Not much of a different story, but heart warming, nonetheless. A traditional WW2 story)
I Am David by Anne Holm(Not so much centered around the Holocaust, but it is beautiful and I cried. They made it into a movie, but of course it couldn't touch the book, but it was a great book. Also, it's been awhile since I read it so I'm not SURE it's about the Holocaust but there was definitely a concentration camp, lol)
Night by Eli Wiesel (Just an overall great story. Read to me when I was in middle school. Was written by an actual survivor, I think).

I haven't finished this book yet but I was definitely excited when I heard it was a Holocaust book.


message 14: by Relyn (new) - rated it 1 star

Relyn Doni wrote: "No, I'm afraid I agree with you on that, too.

Frankly, I see Zusak as just another "discovered" author, who wrote a few books previously, got an award for one of them, and was accepted by a major..."


Me, too. Edgar Sawtelle for example. What in the world were they thinking?? Hamlet with dogs?? BLECH!!

I do find a lot of new books I like, though. Still. I may have to give your classics plan a try. What about My Antonia? Do you love it?


message 15: by Relyn (new) - rated it 1 star

Relyn Irisjade wrote: "Oh my gosh, I am the SAME way. I'm not sick or anything, but I LOVE Holocaust books; they are amazing. I LOVED Milkweed; it's really great. There are a couple of others that I've read you might enj..."


Thanks so much for the recommendations. I am going to check them out. I have read Night. It was written by a survivor. He's written other things, but I think Night is his best.


message 16: by Donitello (new)

Donitello Relyn wrote: "What about My Antonia? Do you love it?"

Absolutely! Just another fabulous novel I would have missed if I focused on recent releases. Life is just too darned short.

Yes, I heard this about Edgar Sawtelle, so I went to the book's amazon page and looked at the reader reviews. They were very informative, that's all I'll say.

BTW, I just love that READER opinions can now be heard, and not just industry critics'! Amazon's format works particularly well -- you can see at a glance how many gave a book 5 stars, 4 stars, all the way down to 1 star. If you've got as many 1s, 2s, and 3s as 4s and 5s, you've probably got a problematic book. Also, you can roll over any individual reader and see how many other reviews s/he has posted. If it's only one, you know s/he was a friend of the author. The Internet and I have a real love-hate relationship, but this is one instance where I love it.




Heather The Devil's Arithmetic was a great book. I would add Elie Wiesel's "Night" to that as well as "The Pianist" by Wladyslaw Szpilman, which is one of my favorite Holocaust books. Also, it's Kristen Dunst in Devil's Arithmetic, not Claire Danes. I've got to say, I disagree with your review, but I really appreciate the fact that you offer other options for people who may be interested in the subject. There are some that I haven't read that I'll need to add to my list, so thanks for that.


message 18: by Maya (new) - rated it 4 stars

Maya Thanks for being the voice of reason. I think you and I have similar thoughts on both this book and perhaps life (I can't choose favorites either). I have added some of your book suggestions to my "to read" list. Thanks!!


Heidi (Yup. Still here.) I listened to this book on audiobook and think that really helped - the narrator was wonderful.


Molly The devil in Vienna is the name of the book that was written by Doris Orgel. Not much of a surprise that Disney changed it to friendship.


message 21: by Green11frog (new)

Green11frog thanks for the suggestions!


Khuong Do Doni wrote: "No, I'm afraid I agree with you on that, too.

Frankly, I see Zusak as just another "discovered" author, who wrote a few books previously, got an award for one of them, and was accepted by a major..."


The first book by Markus Zusak that I read is 'Getting the Girl' which isn't at all well-known or best-selling. I fell in love with his writing style right then (I didn't even know about 'The Book Thief' until 3 weeks ago, mind you, and I've been a big fan of his for 3 months).

I love 'The Book Thief'. I miss the characters. I miss the imagery. The book haunts me.

It's all about opinions. I personally find his writing style authentic and simple and beautiful.

Lastly, I don't like a book because it's a best-seller. I hate 'The Time Traveler's Wife'. I hate 'The Kite Runner'. I hate many other best-sellers. I hate 'A Child Called It' (is it a best-seller?). But I love 'The Book Thief'.

Maybe different people have different preferences for writing styles.

The only classics that I enjoyed, by the way, are 'To Kill A Mockingbird' and 'Of Mice And Men'. See, I can never get myself into 1800s classics because the old writing style and the vocabulary make the reading arduous and exhausting.


message 23: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Walsh ok, first off im 14. and i usually dont take the time to read a book this big and it didn't have a lot of adventure in my opinion. Second, i ended up like it...enough to give it 5 stars...cuz it was good. I don't know how you could only give it a star. :(


Susan So true about the Hiding Place, Relyn.


Natalia i loved this book and death as a narrater, how ever appropriate for everything that this book is. I read it in eighth grade and loved every bit of it.


message 26: by Nikki (new) - added it

Nikki Moore the colours just refer to what the sky looks like when someone dies. It's just death's way to distract himself from his gloomy job. Personally, I loved this book and it's my all time favourite....you just have to be focused and be ale to understand it...!


Renee Have to say that I really loved the book Theif and markus zusak's other books, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. (I don't find him an inadequate writer, if one day I could write half as well as him I would consider myself quite accomplished..) I did not check prior to this but if it's not up already, I recommend Night by Elis Wiesel. It's my second favorite holocaust book, actually.


Devon I agree!! This book is not for me. I tried and I just cant read it.


message 29: by Sovady (new) - added it

Sovady @relyn: have you tried "a man's search for meaning" by viktor frankl? It's an autobiography with some philosophy. I haven't read many Holocaust books; I have "diary of a young girl" on my shelf, my actual shelf I mean, and it's on my list to read. I would like check out briar rose, and some of the others too. Thanks for suggesting good reads. I think it's a great way to end reviews! Multi-purposeful!


message 30: by Relyn (new) - rated it 1 star

Relyn Sovady wrote: "@relyn: have you tried "a man's search for meaning" by viktor frankl? It's an autobiography with some philosophy. I haven't read many Holocaust books; I have "diary of a young girl" on my shelf, my..."

Thanks, Sovady, for the recommendation. I'll check it out. Your welcome for the suggestions. I enjoyed writing them.


message 31: by Daman (new) - added it

Daman Sahni I was in two minds about this book. No longer!! Thank you for the recommendations - I am going to get Briar Rose instead :)


message 32: by Relyn (new) - rated it 1 star

Relyn Daman wrote: "I was in two minds about this book. No longer!! Thank you for the recommendations - I am going to get Briar Rose instead :)"

I think you'll love it. Let me know, won't you?


message 33: by Daman (new) - added it

Daman Sahni Relyn wrote: "Daman wrote: "I was in two minds about this book. No longer!! Thank you for the recommendations - I am going to get Briar Rose instead :)"

I think you'll love it. Let me know, won't you?"


It would be my pleasure :)


Shireen I battled to get into the style.......put it down a few times, then one day kept at it. It was well worth it....I couldn't put it down. it just needs a bit if patience


message 35: by Diane (new) - rated it 1 star

Diane Really appeciated your review. Whole-heartedly agree with your conclusions. I too have read a lot of WWII/Holocaust lit -- adult and YA -- but this, for me, was unreadable. I couldn't finish it. So glad to find a kindred spirit. Also, I copied your book list, several of which I've read.


Kathryn While I did not care much for Book Thief, I am thrilled to see Hiding Place is your favorite book as it is mine as well (Tied with To Kill A Mockingbird.) I have yet to meet someone who loves The Hiding Place as I do. I visited Corrie ten Boom's home in 2008--a dream come true!


message 37: by Relyn (new) - rated it 1 star

Relyn Diane wrote: "Really appeciated your review. Whole-heartedly agree with your conclusions. I too have read a lot of WWII/Holocaust lit -- adult and YA -- but this, for me, was unreadable. I couldn't finish it. So..."

I am nearly a year late, I know. But, I am wondering if you ever read any of them and what you thought? HOpe you are well, Diane.


message 38: by Relyn (new) - rated it 1 star

Relyn Kathryn wrote: "While I did not care much for Book Thief, I am thrilled to see Hiding Place is your favorite book as it is mine as well (Tied with To Kill A Mockingbird.) I have yet to meet someone who loves The H..."

Kathryn, I was giddy to read your message. I call mine a Life List, not a Bucket List, but to visit the Beje has been on it for more than two decades.

I am wondering - did you cry? I know I would have bawled and squalled to be there. When our family went to D.C. we went to the Holocaust Museum and saw a reproduction of the Jewish Wall of Heroes in the Yad Vashim. Corey and some of her family had their names on there and I just stood in front of it and cried.

She is my hero. It's so good to meet a kindred spirit.


Bellomy One thing that people often forget is that "The Book Thief" is not a Holocaust book in the tradtional sense. None of it takes place in a concentration camp or death camp. In fact, neither of them are ever even seen. There is only one persecuted minority in the book who is a main character, and he isn't even present during the entire novel.

So I think calling it Holocaust literature is inaccurate. "The Book Thief" is about the lives, as the narrator said, of the 10% of Nazi Germany who weren't satisfied with Hitler. So it's more than just Max (the Jew they're hiding). It's about how a girl and her family react to a world with values that are so contrary to what they believe in.

And most importantly, it's about the power of words. Nazi Germany was built on words. One of the most powerfully symbolic scenes of the novel is when Liesel steals a book from the book-burning. Here we see a very literal case of Liesel taking the words BACK, and robbing the oppressors of their power. And in the end, Lisel writes her OWN book, the story of her life to that point. Now she's doing more than stealing words from the Nazis; she's filling the world with her own words.

Without the power of words, the Nazis are powerless, and THAT is what the book is about - love of books, and love of words. And so it only makes sense that it has what can only be described as gorgeous prose.


message 40: by Tania (new)

Tania Hewitt Thank you for your reviews. Nearly all of these aren't available on Amazon Kindle which makes me want to search for them!


message 41: by Relyn (new) - rated it 1 star

Relyn Tania wrote: "Thank you for your reviews. Nearly all of these aren't available on Amazon Kindle which makes me want to search for them!"

Thanks, Tania. I hope you find them. I sure did enjoy each one.


Hallie Fletcher Relyn actually it's a bit different for me.I hated Diary of a Young Girl but loved this one.


Pallavi Kamat Though I loved the book, I enjoyed reading your review and also the suggestions you offered of other books. Reading through the comments gave me some other fabulous "to-read" books.


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