Review: The Book Thief

To Write a Book Review…Maybe…

As I sit here, in the Barnes & Noble coffee shop, I am attempting to drown out the high pitched voice of the woman sitting next to me.  Her conversation with her lady friend is quite animated which makes me wonder if I made the right decision about coming to a coffee shop to write my book review.  Theoretically, it sounded like a great idea; I needed a quiet place that offered caffeine, aka coffee.  I thought a bookstore would meet both of these necessities because isn’t a bookstore kind of like a library?  Well, I thought so…and for the most part it is, but then my neighbor’s soprano voice and wild giggles makes me wonder if I had the correct assumption.  Oh well…I’ll try my best to absorb myself in my writing and I’ll do my best to overcome this obstacle before me.  So, onward!

The Book Thief
by: Markus Zusak

This book was on my list of books to read, but I didn’t know when I would actually get to read it because my list of “books to read” was taller than the Empire State Building and this book wasn’t even on my radar; I think I actually forgot I had it…until I turned on my TV.  I was watching television one night and a preview for a movie came on about a young girl in Nazi Germany.  It looked interesting enough but what really caught my attention was when the short clip mentioned that this movie was made after a book titled, “The Book Thief”, and it was coming to a theater near me!  I thought, “Oh, I want to see this movie!  But not before I read the book.”  I knew that if I saw the movie first, then I would never read the book, and so I jumped off the cough and searched my overstocked shelves until my eyes caught the title of this book.

the-book-thief-cover

The Book Thief is a young girl by the name of Liesel and the first book she ever stole was at the conclusion of her younger brother’s funeral.  It was an impulsive move, a token to remember her brother by, but it soon became much more.  Arriving in the town of Munich, Liesel meets her foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann.  They are opposites of one another; Rosa is hard and stern, while Hans is gentle and nurturing.  Life isn’t easy in 1939 Nazi Germany, but Liesel soon develops a friendship with a local boy named Rudy. Together they create their own carefree world, away from the hardships surrounding their small town, until Hans brings a Jew into their home.  Hiding a Jew is serious business, and Liesel knows she must keep this information secret – even from her best friend.  To deal with all the stresses thrust upon her, Liesel finds comfort in the books she has stolen and often reads them over and over.  The familiarity sooths her, but soon unforeseen events take place in her life that turn Liesel’s world upside down.  The Book Thief must find a way to cope with the new struggles and to find hope in more than her stolen books.

The story surrounding the life of Liesel was very interesting and it was complex enough to keep the book interesting from beginning to end; however, the style in which it was written took some getting used to.  It was mostly narrated by Death but there were also several chapters intertwined within Death’s storytelling that where written in Liesel’s view point.  This made it a little awkward for me and it made the reading a little choppy.  I do have to say that this book is over 500 pages, so after reading 100 or so pages I became more accustomed to the author’s style which made it easier to read.

The-Book-Thief-bookshelf

The characters in the story were well thought out.  All of them had substance to them and the author was able to add some background story to the majority of them which made them more believable.  This was done by the narrator, Death.  He would introduce certain people into the plot and give a brief overview of their life.  I liked this aspect because it let you in on the lives of these people and they became more than supporting characters in a story; they became real people who you could possibly be friends with and people you could relate too.

The ending of the book is actually given away early on in the story.  Death spills the beans!  This traumatizing news hits you like cold water, but it doesn’t take away the desire to read the book to its completion.   Knowing the fate of certain people, before it happened in the story, actually compelled me to read on because I was curious to see how the decisions in their life and how certain circumstances would lead them to these outcomes.  The foreknowledge, though, didn’t make it any easier for me when I finally reached that page in which their demise happened.  Good storytelling and good writing.

Markus Zusak wrote a wonderful story.  I could tell it was a well written novel when, after reading it, I contemplated the ending.  I also felt for the people who were created within The Book Thief’s pages.  They were alive within those pages and once I finished reading about them, I had to honor their memory with a few moments of thoughtful silence.

This is the movie poster for the movie.

This is the movie poster for the movie. It’s always interesting to see how the characters in the movie differ from the ones I’ve created in my mind while reading the book. Interesting indeed!!

Although the main character of The Book Thief is a young girl, this book takes place during a dark time in our history and is not an appropriate book for the young reader.   Some stories are shared about World War II that might be a bit graphic for those under the age of 15.  War is an ugly topic and this book covers some of those subjects.  I would suggest the reader be 15 or older.  Due to the diverseness of the characters within the story, I believe this book can relate to most people; both men and women.  This book would also be a great resource for those who want to read more about World War II, or for those who like to read books during that era. It’s not a historical account of the war, but it does give insight on how the war affected people who were involved in it.

And for those who are wondering what my thoughts are about the movie…well, I finished reading the book in January.  It took me longer than expected to read this book because my life was pretty busy over the holiday months.  Sadly, since I took so long to read the book, I missed seeing the movie in the theater.  I’m kind of bummed about that, but I still can’t wait to see it…even if it’s on DVD.

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