Friday, May 11, 2012

Rereading Book Thief (YA/Adult)

The Book Thief. Markus Zusak. 2006. Random House. 560 pages.

First the colors. Then the humans. That's usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try. Here is a small fact: you are going to die. I am in all truthfulness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, though most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter my protestations. Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that's only the A's. Just don't ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me. 
The Book Thief leaves me speechless. If humans leave Death, the narrator, feeling haunted, I can say the same of the narrator. Could a book have a better narrator? I doubt it. There is something so perfectly-perfectly-perfect about The Book Thief. It is beautiful and brilliant; absorbing and compelling. It goes ugly places, to be sure, but the language, the style, just can't be beat. I mean this is a novel that wows and amazes. The characters are so real, so vivid. I mean these characters are very real, very human, very flawed, but the connection is so intense. I mean how can you read Liesel Meminger's story and not be moved? How can you not care for Liesel, for her new Papa and Mama, for Rudy, for Max? It would probably be hard to pick a favorite character in this one. Would it be Death who tells the story so beautifully, so achingly, so straight-forwardly? Would it be Liesel, the girl-turned-woman, whom you just can't help loving? Her story is so heartbreaking. She is weak-and-strong. She's vulnerable and spunky. I mean she's got fight to her, fight in her. And there's something about her that you just can't ignore. But she's been hurt, she's carrying pain and loss. There's so much about her that I couldn't even begin to put into words. Would it be Hans Hubermann? It may just be. The way he tenderly loves Liesel, the way he's strong and gentle with her. So very, very understanding. How she becomes his world. How he does everything possible to be a true father to her, to heal her hurts, to piece her heart back together. There is something so very practical and down-to-earth about him, yet something so sensitive too. I mean Hans Hubermann and his accordion won't soon be forgotten by anyone who reads this novel. And then there's Max, the hidden Jew in the basement. I love Max for himself, it's true, but I love Max for what he brings out in Hans and Liesel. I love Max's role in the novel because of how he is able to connect with Liesel, how he is able to connect with this family. His story is powerful, the "books" he writes for Liesel are incredibly compelling, but, this isn't his story. He's a big part of the story, to be sure, because of the way Liesel takes him into her heart. But. This story is all about Liesel. As it perhaps should be.

The Book Thief is a book that everyone should experience twice: once in print, once in audio.  I've read it three times, I believe, and listened to it once. (Though I've listened to some sections of the audio more than once.) And it is one of the best, best, best books I've ever read. I don't love it because it's an easy read. I don't love it because it's a happy, happy novel. I love it because it is beautiful, haunting, ugly, yet hopeful.

Read The Book Thief
  • If you want to read a great book; it's compelling, emotional, haunting, beautiful and ugly.
  • If you want to read a book set during World War II.
  • If you are looking for a substantive book on love and loss and everything it means to be human.

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Kailana 11:02 AM  

I really have to read this book. I have owned it forever...

Anna 11:17 AM  

Great post! It's such a wonderful book, so heartbreaking but so wonderful. I'm actually re-reading this one and sharing it with my daughter. I wrote about that experience here if you're interested.

Chitra Divakaruni 2:29 PM  

Hi Becky, My son read & loved this book, and after reading your post, I'm going to give it a try this summer. As a writer, the idea of Death as narrator interests me a great deal. I'm always looking for novel POVs in my stories.

Amy 1:53 PM  

I don't normally like books with a conceit (such as being narrated by Death!), but this one totally sucked me in and made me its own. So beautiful.

Sophie Marie 12:07 PM  

Hi there, Becky! I'm pretty sure that I have this book sitting somewhere on my shelves and this review has really put me in the mood to go find it and read it! I also wanted to say, and I wasn't sure where the right place to say it was, that I had a few suggestions of historical fictional books that you might be interested in. One of them is called "I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend" (which I have posted a review about on my blog - )and the other is Called "Bright Young Things" and it is the first in a series. At some point I also hope to write a wee review on that. I've just started blogging so it would mean the world to me if you would check out my blog and leave any comments that you could make about my writing and reviewing. Sorry for bothering you with all of this.
All the best, I love your blog!x

Melissa (Avid Reader) 2:01 PM  

I've read this one twice and I love it more than I can say.

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) 7:56 PM  

I picked this book up, last summer and then had a baby. Woops! I need to make my way back to it. No more excuses at this point.

April 5:16 PM  

I read this book a few years ago for school and I loved it. Your review is so on-the-dot about the character and how beautiful this book is. I definitely want to read it again sometime, because it's been so long since I have read it. It's an amazing book.

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

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I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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