The Book Thief Paperback – 1 Jan 2008
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The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak was the best-selling debut literary novel of the year 2007, selling over 400,000 copies. The author is a prize-winning writer of children's books, and this, his first novel for adults, proved to be a triumphant success. The book is extraordinary on many levels: moving, yet restrained, angry yet balanced -- and written with the kind of elegance found all too rarely in fiction these days. The book's narrator is nothing less than Death itself, regaling us with a remarkable tale of book burnings, treachery and theft. The book never forgets the primary purpose of compelling the reader's attention, yet which nevertheless is able to impart a cogent message about the importance of words, particularly in those societies which regard the word as dangerous (the book is set during the Nazi regime, but this message is all too relevant in many places in the world today).
Nine-year-old Liesel lives with her foster family on Himmel Street during the dark days of the Third Reich. Her Communist parents have been transported to a concentration camp, and during the funeral for her brother, she manages to steal a macabre book: it is, in fact, a gravediggers’ instruction manual. This is the first of many books which will pass through her hands as the carnage of the Second World War begins to hungrily claim lives. Both Liesel and her fellow inhabitants of Himmel Street will find themselves changed by both words on the printed page and the horrendous events happening around them.
Despite its grim narrator, The Book Thief is, in fact, a life-affirming book, celebrating the power of words and their ability to provide sustenance to the soul. Interestingly, the Second World War setting of the novel does not limit its relevance: in the 20th century, totalitarian censorship throughout the world is as keen as ever at suppressing books (notably in countries where the suppression of human beings is also par for the course) and that other assault on words represented by the increasing dumbing-down of Western society as cheap celebrity replaces the appeal of books for many people, ensures that the message of Marcus Zusak’s book could not be more timely. It is, in fact, required reading -- or should be in any civilised country. --Barry Forshaw
"Extraordinary, resonant and relevant, beautiful and angry." (Lisa Hilton Sunday Telegraph)
"...a beautifully balanced piece of storytelling...Unsettling, thought-provoking, life affirming, triumphant and tragic, this is a novel of breathtaking scope, masterfully told. It is an important piece of work, but also a wonderful page-turner." (Guardian)
"A moving work which will make many eyes brim." (Marianne Brace Independent on Sunday)
"This is a weighty novel worthy of universal acclaim. A sense of dread prevades this beautifully written novel. As The Book Thief draws to a close, Death says: "There's a multitude of stories that i allow to distract me as I work." The story of the Book Thief, who tried to change the world in her own small way, proves one formidable and inspiring distraction." (Lianne Kolirin The Daily Express)
"Brilliant and hugely ambitious ... the kind of book that could be life-changing" (New York Times Book Review)
Top customer reviews
There are already a lot of lengthy reviews about this book. This is not so much of a review as a recommendation. A good book that I think most people would like.
Incidentally, I have typed variations of 'recommendation' 4 times now in this review and this is the first time that I have got the double 'm; single 'c' thing right. Write Amazon reviews and learn to spell.
The novel follows the journey of an innocent girl living in the time of Nazi Germany and charts her experiences of war and loss but, more importantly, the slow building horror as she finally confronts the truth about what's happening to the Jews.
Leisel is a great fictional character. The story of her life ufolds at a slow pace and it's fair to say there's a lot of scene setting as Markus Zusak takes great care to develop Leisel's world and the host of characters sharing it with her. The historical aspects read well. There are times when the plot meanders away and I was wondering when we'd get back to the real story, at more than 500 pages there's space for self indulgence, and that's really my only 'niggle'.
There's a fair amount of fantasy running alongside the horror, having Death narrate the story is something I wouldn't have expected, but it works. The spectral figure of Death relating the surreal events of the times adds a great deal of contrast and a real hint of darkness which is beautifully evoked against the loss of Liesel's innocence as the poverty and horror of war creep into her little town blackening the air around her.
The ending is brilliantly done and, like 'The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, you've read it before the true catastrophe draws you back in makes you think WHAT!.
There are many subtle messages floating around in The Book Thief not least the one of how book burning cannot quell the spirit of a people...especially Liesel. This isn't a straightforward story. It's quirky and unusual. Took me a while to read because parts of the narrative run slowly but I'd recommend it to anyone.
All I will say is this is a must read and one of the most moving books I have read in a long while. The narrative style of this writer draws you in immediately and you literally find you can't put the book down until it's finished. The story itself is mesmerizing and presents a life of Nazi Germany outside of the camps and the bravery of people who risked their lives to save the Jews amongst all the propaganda and brain washing of a nation. We have an orphan, foster parents, a best friend with lemon coloured hair and a young Jew desperately trying to avoid capture and what that will lead to.
The book ends on a note of hope but not before the end of so many innocent lives.
Please can we have a sequel to this ? I would so like to know what happens to Max and the Book Thief afterwards and their journey to heal from their horrific experiences!
This film is a must for those who want something different from the usual gore and horror of war to something different. A message of hoe and most of all, this story was true. It will make You want to see it again and again.
However, once I got into it, I became thoroughly engrossed. Zusak has created people that I cared about, particularly the book thief herself. He's also brought to life a small German town suffering under the Nazis and during the war. The writing is very sharp, with some memorable images, and the narration, by a compassionate Death, is profound and totally original.
I have just seen the film, which oversimplifies the story and is rather dull. The book is much better and tackles issues such as the conflict in families caused by Nazi ideology. My advice would be to read the book and give the film a miss.
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