386 of 400 people found the following review helpful
on 14 March 2008
I really can't believe that in the first three months of the year I have come across three gems in "A Thousand Splendid Suns," "A Quiet Belief in Angels" and now "The Book Thief." Each of these books is different but they are all stunning in their own individual way.
The Book Thief is highly original, although it did remind me somewhat of my book of the year for 2007 "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas." The subject matter for both books is the Nazification of Germany. Both books look at things from the perspective of a child growing up in the most turbulent of times and both have a child-like simplicity that just adds to their powers.
The Book Thief is a beautiful book from start to finish. Indeed at times it is more of a scrapbook of a life than a novel. It has a strangeness that only enhances the subject matter. For a start it is narrated by death. But this never detracts from the shape or power of the novel as young lives are slowly ripped apart in a German Town where poverty is rife.
The central character Liesel has a beautiful calmness of spirit. She always seems to be on the verge of re-alisation whilst still retaining the fragility of childhood. Slowly and gradually the evil unfolds before her as she becomes aware of the fate of the Jews in a town where she is thrust as an unwilling refugee.
In her adopted father Hans Hubermann, Zusak has created one of those unforgettable men of strength and kindness. At first when Liesel is thrust into the Hubermann household I was expecting a hard-hearted couple keen to take the small amount of money that Lisel brings with her but not so keen to give her the love that she craves. Nothing could be more from the truth. Hans is open with his love and support whilst is wife is softer than she would ever want anybody to know.
There are passages where the book appears to be meandering and nothing much seems to be happening. There is a war on, but it isn't hugely affecting those involved in the story. But then you realise, almost by chance, that it is affecting every character, sometime directly and sometimes in a rather subtler way (if war can be subtle). Then comes a cataclysmic climax that is both sad and uplifting.
This is a very unusual book. It is a delight to read and never stodgy and once again I can only highly recommend it.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 13 August 2008
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
1939 - Nazi Germany - The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier. Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall. Some important information - this novel is narrated by death. It's a small story, about: a girl; an accordionist; some fanatical Germans; a Jewish fist fighter; and quite a lot of thievery. Another thing you should know - death will visit the book thief three times.
I loved this book, I'm recommending it to everyone!!
It is a long book, of 550ish pages, but well worth the read, and even has pictures in the book! It is incredibly easy to follow and I liked how the pages were often broken up with some asides and important notes.
I think my favourite part was the fact the book was narrated by Death, who had some very funny one-liners. Death was also my favourite character, he was portrayed in a new, almost sensitive way, which I loved. And he had a great sense of humour.
The book had me gripped from the beginning and was full of twists and turns. I was nearly in tears at the end of the book, it was so sad, but I was thoroughly satisfied by the ending.
I loved all the characters, some had me cringing, some had me laughing, some I just loved and wished they were real.
This is historical fiction, but I had no reason to doubt the history in the book, with the concentration camps and the Munich bombings.
9/10, an excellent book.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 2008
The eponymous book thief is Liesel Meminger, a young girl whose mother takes her to Munich to live with a foster family on the eve of the Second World War. On the journey to Munich, two things happen. First, her brother dies. Second, Liesel steals a book at his graveside - a manual for grave diggers. Not the most appropriate of texts for a twelve year old girl, but it awakens in Liesel a love of books - and perhaps more importantly, a skill for stealing books.
The Book Thief is narrated by Death, who tells the story of Liesel, her family and her friends. The narrative style has a lightness of touch that is pleasantly surprising given the weight of the subject matter. The characters are vividly drawn, rough and occasionally brutal yet each of them capable of acts of great tenderness, generosity and love.
If I had to find fault with this, it would be the occasionally clunky use of a German phrase followed by an English translation, but overall, this is a wonderful book, and I defy anyone not to be moved by it.
286 of 305 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 2008
I am not sure how to describe this book - without either giving too much away - or making it sound depressing and grisely which it is not at all. Suffice to say this is a novel narrated by death. It is the story of a young girl living in Nazi Germany, who goes to live with a foster family,and learns to read, and falls in love with: books, her new Papa, a boy called Rudy, and a Jew hiding in a basement. It is also a story of WW2 - from a persepective we don't often see - ordinaary Germans - some of whom were members of "The Party."
Death takes the reader by the hand, and leads us through the lives and deaths of people in Liesel's world, he kind of "gives the game away" a few times - and yet that never spoils it - it prepares the reader for what's ahead.
This is an astonishing book - the writing is great - an unusual style - but one that fits perfectly somehow with the voice of Death - and that of the unforgettable Liesel.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 17 September 2007
i was surprised to see some of the reviews posted here about the books thief, but then i realised it is all about how you read it, and of course, who you are. i was tired of books that were written prettily, full of ornate language yes, and wonderful prose that poured out little metaphors and cute similies, but they all blended into one, they were barely distinguishable. i walked into waterstones, alone one sunday morning, and i was only drawn to the book because their was a brightly cloured stand erected for it to sit on, after scanning the blurb i made a snap decision to buy it, because something felt right. the sheer heaviness of the book intrigued me, literally as well as metaphorically, yet the issue of ww2, the holocaust, is one i have seen done well a thousand times. but none have done it, i believe, with the same sheer bluntness yet beauty as the book thief does, the book manages to be incredibly to the point, so open yet the phrasing, the writing so different to anything i have ever seen before. my memories of the book are slightly blurred, it has been a while since i visited liesel and her books, but a few moments have entrenched themselves in my memory- the snow and her first book, the colours of the sky, the library, papa and his accordion, and the falling ashes like snowflakes that make my eyes prick and my skin ripple with emotion still. the author i believe is not purposefully trying to be overly clever, i just think this style of writing is just so different, the short phrases and sentences, the odd facts, they just make the picture the author is painting a more vivid one. so, if you love books,if you love books about loving books, then please, i ask you, buy the book thief, and let it steal you.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 15 April 2008
This book is for me what writing is all about. You learn something, you feel something and it somehow changes you. It has humour (I can't help remembering the detail of the Mayor's wife having swastikas on her slippers!), it has heartache (Max), it has family (despite the flying insults), it has love and overall, despite the tragic scenery and setting, it is a very positive book. Max's books remind me of the "Little Prince", while the girls character reminds me of Scout in "To Kill a Mockingbird". Great writing, what sounds like a gimick (narrating through the voice of Death) becomes a charming and very moving story. Great book - if you haven't got it, get and sit down for a good read!
222 of 245 people found the following review helpful
on 28 November 2007
Sometimes a fictional interpretation of history is exactly what we need in order to be able to come to a real understanding of what it meant to live through historic events, particularly horrific ones. Markus Zusak provides us with a masterful interpretation of the Nazi period of German history from the perspective of ordinary people suffering through it and striving to keep their lives together and their souls alive and kicking within the horrific and ever-tightening boundaries constructed by the Nazi regime. He gives us a gut-wrenchingly palpable empathy for people facing harrowing decisions on a daily basis. His marvelous characters bring to life the dilemmas of those who believe they should help the Jews as well as the equally nightmarish predicament of Jews who through receiving help put others in danger. We see much of this through the perspective of the main character Liesel, who is only a young girl. Her innocence and the gradual realizations she comes to about the events swirling around her in a maelstrom of horror evoke a remarkable empathy in the reader. If you want to understand how the little people cope with such tragic historic events without allowing their souls to be crushed, read this book. Ultimately it is a portrait of the resilience and hope of the human spirit.
181 of 200 people found the following review helpful
I am ambivalent towards this book. The writing style was definitely unique; I enjoyed the frequent intermissions by the narrator, which gave the story a light-hearted and a nostalgic back-in-your-childhood feel. The ending was particularly well done - poignant, perhaps tear-jerking for many readers.
However, I felt the characterisation altogether a little weak - there were very few characters I could care about; many of them appear to be cardboard cutouts of stereotypical personalities. The story meanders a lot in the middle of the book without much really happening and most of the events seem to have no purpose at all. All in all, I don't know what this book wants to be. It doesn't deliver the full atmosphere of what it was like living in Nazi Germany, as I had expected; nor is it a simple idyllic bildungsroman. It is neither happy nor depressing; its target audience appears to be neither for adults nor for children. Many would undoubtedly argue that it is precisely this ambiguity that makes the book so enjoyable; I believe it is a matter of taste whether you like those kinds of books or not.
If there is one word I would sum up the book with, it would be 'clever' - the structure certainly is ingenious and the narration with Death works very well in some parts. However, I do think that Zusak had tried a tad too hard; I felt the basics of a good book - the characters, the plot and writing style - had suffered as a result of pursuing style over content. While some people (as testified by the many positive reviews) would love this book, others will find it is not entirely up their street. Try it, and find out!
102 of 113 people found the following review helpful
on 15 September 2008
I picked this book up in an airport on a whim. I liked the cover. It took a couple of months to open it up, but once I did, I could NOT put it down. I (foolishly) took it with me on vacation. I did NOT see the sights, because I stayed in my room all day and all night until I finished the book, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying hysterically.
This book is haunting, beautiful, and moving-but not in a sappy way. My family is Jewish, and suffered loss due to the Holocaust. But lots of people have similar stories, and have told them. They are all important, and moving, but this is completely unique, because it's not primarily about the Jews (though they are in the book).
I have to admit, I have never once thought about what it was like for regular, working class citizens to live in Nazi Germany. Or what it was like for their children. There were other innocent victims of the Nazi regime than the ones who died in the camps. Zusak vividly brings to life these special, imperfect and at the same time PERFECT characters and makes you experience their lives as if they were your own. I felt what they felt, saw what they saw, lost what they lost. And, I finished this book crying like a baby. I cried for at least half an hour. And it was wonderful.
A boy with hair the color of lemons broke my heart the night I finished reading this book. (You will understand what that means when you read it.) But I am glad he did. I would never have known him, otherwise.
READ THIS BOOK!!!!!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 31 May 2008
Narrated by Death, this is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young German girl trying to survive the hardships and deprivations of Germany during WWII. It is the story of a street "Himmel Street" and its inhabitants, and the town of Molching close neighbour to Dachau Concentration Camp. Perhaps it's the story of the ordinary German people too, not the ones that went to fight, but the ones that were left behind, the children, the women and the men.
The characters, the places, the emotions were so exquisitely drawn that I found myself standing on Himmel Street, watching the football games, or the marching Hitler Youth, or walking alongside Liesel as she delivered the ironing to her foster mother's customers.
With Death as a constant companion, telling the story, complaining a little about all the work he had to do at that particular time, and how sometimes he was bound to get involved in individual stories if he wasn't careful. He was amusing and forthright. A surprisingly good story teller in fact.
This story deeply moved me. I cannot begin to explain the laughter and the tears that came in equal measure when reading. I'm not prone to tears, so I must leave it to you to draw your own conclusions in that regard.
An excellent book and one that I would recommend to anyone.