I knew I wanted to re-read this book soon, but my Mum picking up this book and raving about it again gave me the final push! Thanks, Mum! Because it was a re-read, I decided to experience this book again in a different format and chose the audiobook. What a different, but still wonderful experience! Let’s get into it!
Spoiler Free Review
Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Published: Knopf Books, 2006
(from GR) Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she 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 before he is marched to Dachau.
I can’t express to you how much of a joy reading this book was again. I just can’t. This is the book that, when I first read it, made me fall in love with reading – seriously reading, as a hobby – again. It was everything I wanted from a book and more. And it certainly didn’t fall in my estimation this time either.
The characters, or can I really call them that, because they actually feel like friends? They feel like people you could say hello to on the other side of the street. The feel real, and their stories are real and their emotions are real, and that makes their story all the more heartbreaking and poignant. Leisel is an excellent character. I love the journey she takes, how she begins and how different she is at the end of the novel, yet still holding her unique Leisel traits. I loved watching her interact with the loving, quirky and ridiculous inhabitants of Himmel Street, and how she grew to love them. I loved watching her deal with her sadness and anger in a believable way – she’s a child dealing with very adult circumstances, after all. This is not a story where only the main character matters: they all matter, and you root for them all throughout the novel.
This novel is narrated by Death, and it was an ever eerier experience to be read the story with ‘his’ voice in your ears. I had never, and don’t think I have yet, read a book with such an interesting narrator – and Zusak gives a voice to something – someone – who always gets the last say. I’d never thought before about how something – someone – like Death would feel, or how his thoughts would sound. Zusak answers those questions by having him narrate this story, and he became one of my favourite characters in the book. So insightful. So dreadful. So painfully noticed and yet, unnoticed.
The plot of this story deals with the events in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power and the subsequent World War. Therefore, the plot of the story is powerful and brutal and heartbreaking. As always, I feel torn up at the events of the story and at the ideas people had during those times. How people can changes because of one man’s voice, is a very powerful, daunting concept. Yet this book deals with the subject well – it doesn’t soften the blow, because these events were real and we need to remember they were real. But it does show moments of beauty and strength, and shows that the strongest of friendships can be forged under the darkest of circumstances. There’s something so lovely about that.
A note about the audio-book format: I loved it and would heartily recommend. I would, however, suggest that you maybe save the audio version for a reread, as I did. (I say this because I know full well the benefits of reading and reliving this book twice; you’ll most likely want to do the same). There is something nice about reading the words the first time yourself – I think you maybe forge a stronger bond with the characters that way. Plus, the book has beautiful illustrations that you would miss otherwise, and those are some of my favourite parts of the story. But in the audio-books defence: reading via Death’s voice makes the story sound more daunting and powerful. Plus, now I know how it feels to drive and sob at the same time. So there’s that.
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars!
It wouldn’t have been anything else.
If you haven’t read this book, get your hands on it soon. It has so much to tell us, to reveal to us, to make us feel.
Until next read!