The lovelies at Young Adult Fiction and Whiskey Sours are doing a group read of The Book Thief today. Which is why I’m posting. Because mostly I’m like… whaaaaaaaaat? I just… don’t even know how to write about this book.
Book: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Summary (from GoodReads): It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery….
Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever they are to be found.
With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.
Thoughts: I always say that I don’t like historical fiction, but I have recently been called a liar (thanks Jen). I’m going to have to stop saying that, because The Book Thief blew me away. I knew this book was narrated by death, which sounds like a gimmick, but it’s not. Death as a narrator works for the scope of the story, as well as the setting and themes. Death isn’t sadistic or evil and the narration feels reasonably unbiased, never preaching or blame throwing, just telling a simple story in a complicated world. The book begins with Death describing how the only way to deal with the job is to focus on the color of the sky. And yet, no matter how hard Death tries to not notice humans, it never works. Death always recalls the details of every single death.
Even though this book is narrated by Death and there is plenty of death to go around, I couldn’t get away from the idea that this book is about the good in humanity more than anything else. There is so much hate in the world and yet, in the midst of this, the book is overwhelmingly filled with love and joy. Yes, I cried. But, I laughed, too. It takes an incredibly painful and difficult time in history and makes it accessible. The characters are living in poverty and oppression but they are easy to love. Death warns the reader in the beginning that there won’t be a happy ending. I tried not to get attached, but it didn’t work. And now I feel shattered.
If I was going to complain about anything, I would ask for more story at the end. Not that the story was lacking (it is 550 pages), but I wanted more. Even though Death spoils the ending throughout the book, I will refrain from doing so here by not discussing what more I wanted from the end. It doesn’t change the fact that this story will stay with me.
Moments I Loved: Liesel gets a taste of champagne in one scene and it is a high point in her life and the way I want to remember all of the characters.
WTF Moments: Rudy’s Hitler Youth leader makes him do PT in a field that has recently been fertilized. So yes, when he proclaims that life is s**t, he is indeed covered in s**t.
Overall: It will break your heart, but it will make you think. Not just about Nazi Germany, but about growing up, falling in love, and the impact words have on all of us.