- Paperback: 560 pages
- Publisher: Black Swan; Reprint edition (1 Jan. 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0552773891
- ISBN-13: 978-0552773898
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.3 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4,818 customer reviews
Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
4,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #22 in Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Government & Politics > Political Science & Ideology > Fascism & Nazism
- #39 in Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Government & Politics > Political Science & Ideology > Political Science > History
- #137 in Books > Textbooks > Social Sciences > Political Science
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)
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A superb story, written in a unique and fascinating way. I'm going right back to the beginning to re-read it!
Death is the narrator of the story, a clever device enabling an emotionally impartial and non-judgemental narration that cuts to the heart.
It is interesting that the narrator prepares the reader for what is to come on several occasions. Yet this preparation in no way diminishes the horror. In some ways it intensifies it... Or focuses the attention... Like preparing to visit the morgue to see a loved one... We need to be prepared to say goodbye properly... To be able to let go... To remember. The dead are honoured by our remembering.
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.
I loved the writing style which others have criticised, I found the grammar to be perfectly acceptable and I loved the characters.
Ok, I cried a tear a few times, but I believe only a well written book can really make you cry - you have to care about something to be able to cry about it.
I loved it. If you didn't, then you have no heart. Your loss.
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Most recent customer reviews
Wonderful book. A joy to read. It made me laugh AND cry. It went straight into my top ten of the best books I have ever read.
I will miss the Book Thief but very glad I read their story.
I highly recommend this book.