Monday, September 13, 2010

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Reviewed by Connie

Remember when I wrote my Top 10 Tuesday about how I haven't finished The Book Thief yet and many of you took it very personally? Well, hurrah hurrah for me, I finally found the time to finish it! 

Published: 2005

It's about: Liesel is a young German girl during perhaps the worst time in history to be a German -- a time of being torn away from her parents and holding her younger brother as he dies in her arms, a time of waking up with nightmares in her new foster home, a time of belonging to the Hitler Youth, a time of bunkering down in the neighbor's basement during air raids, a time of hiding a Jew in her basement and hoping to heaven she and her foster family don't get caught.

But that is not all Liesel sees and lives. Liesel also lives in another Germany, one that exists despite the terror -- one with a kind foster father who sits up with Liesel after her nightmares and teaches her to read, one of gaining eternal glory in her neighborhood by winning a fight with a neighborhood boy, one of playing soccer with a boy named Rudy who above all wants two things: to be like Jessie Owens and to get a kiss from Liesel, one of finding friendship in the unlikeliest of places -- with a starving Jew in her basement, one of discovering the beauty, the joy, and the power of words.

Narrated by Death, this story is sad but inspiring, youthful but ageless, the complex story of a divided nation and a world at war, the simple story of a young girl in a new city who is learning to read.

I thought: Every once in a while, a book comes along that is really quite perfect, and every time you start to clam up and get scared that it might take a wrong turn and disappoint you, it takes a perfectly correct turn that you never even considered, rendering it more beautiful than you could have anticipated. This is one of those books. It's a book that made me cry, but not in a chick flick, I'm so glad they both swallowed their pride and got back together sort of way, but in a deeply, meaningful sort of way. Not didactic or exaggerated, Zusak's book takes on an incredibly sensitive, complicated subject and transforms it into something simple and wonderfully human.

Personally, I have grown rather fatigued by the number of authors who think that if they write about Nazi Germany, nobody can say anything bad about their books. The Book Thief is a fresh and moving new perspective on this turbulent period of history, intricately weaving together Liesel's growing understanding of love and friendship with her discovery of the disintegration and inhumanity of her home nation.

On top of everything beautiful this book contains, it also is a shining tribute to books, reading, the therapy of writing, and the healing and destructive power of words.

There is little more I can say about this book except -- masterpiece.

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf, then buy copies to stick it on the shelves of all of your friends!

Reading Recommendations: This is a longer book (550 pages), so probably don't start it until you know you'll be able to finish it shortly thereafter.

Warnings: None, except perhaps descriptions of starving Jews and thieving children and a sweet boy who really wants to be kissed.

Favorite excerpts:
"'Don't punish yourself,' she heard her say again, but there would be punishment and pain, and there would be happiness, too. That was writing."