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The Book Thief

November 26, 2006

bookthief.jpgI promised this review a little while back and am just now finding the time to get to it. I didn’t write about it immediately after finishing because I wanted some time to process. I do that after a hum-dinger of a book. This is another book I found via the book blogosphere and I’m greatful I did.  The Book Thief, written by Markus Zusak, tells the incredibly moving story of young Liesel Meminger. The story is set in a town just outside of Munich, Germany at the dawn of World War II. The story is narrated by Death himself (or herself) as he watches Liesel’s life go by. I actually really liked the character of Death in this book. He was a very approachable character. The last line in the book is his. It reads… “I am haunted by humans”.  

The story begins with Liesel, her younger brother, and her mother taking a train ride. Liesel and her brother are about to be surrendered into the foster care system because their mother can no longer care for them.  On the way, Liesel’s brother dies and Death observes Liesal for the first time. He kind of becomes enchanted with her in a way. He observes her steal a book from the gravediggers at her brother’s funeral. From there, Liesel’s career as a book thief begins. She steals several other books over the course of the story as we follow along. She loves books, but this is a problem in the beginning because she can’t read.  Liesel is adopted by the Hubermann family. The Hubermanns are flawed, but good people nonetheless.  The father, Hans, has refused to join the Nazi party and of course their lives suffer for it. Heteaches Liesel to read. The Hubermanns also shelter a Jew, Max, in their basement for a time and Liesel becomes fast friends with him.  

My favorite character though was Liesel’s absolute best friend, Rudy, a boy of the same age that lives next door. Rudy develops a bit of a reputation in town because his idol is Jesse Owens, not such a good idea in Nazi Germany. Rudy relentlessly begs Liesel for a kiss throughout the book. He is endearingly sweet and loyal. He always stands by his friend.

Some of the most powerful chapters in the book deal with scenes of the Nazis (basically everyone in the town) holding a huge book burning on the occassion of Hitler’s birthday and a chapter entitled, “The Long Walk To Dachau”.  Dachau is merely a few miles away from the town where Liesal lives. Everyone knows what is going on there and yet no one speaks out about it. No one tries to help the Jewish people who were so recently their neighbors. They all live in utmost fear of what might happen to their own families if they speak out against the Nazi party. In this chapter we see a group of Jewish people forced to walk on foot through the own on their way to the concentration camp. Hans is the only one who steps up to help one of the prisoners who falls in the road. He is whipped for his efforts and Max is forced to flee the Hubermann’s basement.

Wow, this book was so poignant and moving. I read somewhere that the author wanted to write a story about some of the experiences his own parents went through as Jews in Germany at that particular time in history. I think he does a commendable job of it. I must admit that I actually cried at parts of the story. It was that good. The book is categorized as a young adult novel, but this was no issue for me.  The Book Thief makes for great reading at any level.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2006 10:04 am

    Very nice review. I loved this book and it still holds the place of #1 on my 2006 Top Ten List.

  2. November 28, 2006 12:35 am

    Fantastic review! I am so behind in my reading, but will add this one to my list behind The 13th Tale.

    I just finished “The Secret Life of Bees” and thoroughly enjoyed it.

  3. November 28, 2006 11:09 am

    Superb review. I really want to read this book!

  4. November 28, 2006 1:20 pm

    This one really made me think. Glad you enjoyed it, too.

  5. Donna permalink
    November 28, 2006 1:54 pm

    Awesome review. This book in on my list to read!

  6. Donna permalink
    November 28, 2006 1:57 pm

    I meant is on my list!

  7. November 28, 2006 5:05 pm

    I loved this book. Such an impact.

  8. November 28, 2006 5:12 pm

    Hi! I came across your blog through Lesley’s Book Nook. I really enjoyed it. Mind if I link it?

  9. November 28, 2006 5:14 pm

    Oops! Wrong addy on the other post. I forgot the word blog.

  10. November 28, 2006 8:05 pm

    I’m so glad you liked it too!

  11. December 2, 2006 5:56 pm

    This is one on my Christmas list for my wife that I hope to read after she is done.

  12. Donna permalink
    December 2, 2006 9:27 pm

    Just got the book from the library! Read the first three pages twice on the way home. I was at stoplights!!!! I promise.

    Can’t wait to read the rest.

  13. December 11, 2006 10:09 pm

    Powerful, powerful book!! Loved it too!

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