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The Book Thief

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bookthiefAfter reading Kat’s review, I had to read The Book Thief. (This happens to me fairly regularly – she reads something awesome and then I’ve got to get into it.) I have a bit of an academic fetish with the Holocaust and a definite fascination with Death, so it was remarkable that I hadn’t already read a book transpiring during WWII that was narrated by death.

The only other YA lit about WWII that I’ve read, or indeed know about, is Number the Stars, which this book resembled in just about no way whatsoever. Number the Stars is a much more linear narrative sticking to the lives of the characters involved. The narration of The Book Thief by an outside force, specifically by Death, allows Zusak to create a more magical atmosphere in such a dark subject. I felt that this book’s closest peers were the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman; books classified as YA lit because their protagonists were children and their language was readily accessible, but with intense plots and sophisticated messages.

Unlike Kat, this book did not make me weep, though that was only due to the amount of foreshadowing of the ending that filled the last third of the book. It did break my heart into a thousand tiny little pieces though. I can’t fault Zusak for not trying, I’m just not a crier at books. Movies, yes, but there’s only one book in the history of books that has ever made me cry. Oh yes, The Time-Traveler’s Wife had me crying like a baby for HOURS. My husband at the time was asleep when I finished reading at at 2AM one Icelandic winter’s night and I had to wake him up and ask him to hold me while I wept. 

So, no weeping for me, but definitely a heavy feeling in my soul. In a good way.


Written by Sonja

April 18, 2009 at 4:06 pm

The Book Thief.

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak takes place in Germany during the beginning of World War II.  Nine-year-old Liesel is on a train with her brother and her mother to a foster family when she sees Death enter and realizes her brother is dead.  By her brother’s graveside, Liesel steals her first book, The Grave Digger’s Handbook, which was dropped in the snow.

Death proceeds to narrate the next five years of Liesel’s life, and his overview makes for an interesting take on the war, Liesel’s life and love of words, her new parents and the Jewish man they are hiding in the basement, and Liesel’s best friend, Rudy.

Death notes the weariness war brings:

Five hundred souls.

The fallen hours of May 30.

I’m sure Liesel Meminger was fast asleep when more than a thousand bomber planes flew toward a place known as Koln.  For me, the result was five hundred people or thereabouts.  Fifty thousand others ambled homelessly around the ghostly piles of rubble, trying to work out which way was which, and which slabs of broken home belonged to whom.

I carried them in my fingers, like suitcases.  Or I’d throw then over my shoulder.  It was only the children I carried in my arms.

I loved The Book Thief and it broke my heart in little ways at the same time, in much the same way the story- out of so many others- stayed with Death the Narrator, who ends the book by saying, “I am haunted by humans.”

Written by questionsandanchors

April 6, 2009 at 3:10 am