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on 22 May 2017
The blurb describes this novel as being ‘a small story’. It is…but it’s a small story over a big number of pages! Five hundred and sixty-two of them, in fact. It did require a bit of a commitment from me, but it was worth every single moment.

It’s told in quite a unique way and narrated by Death. As the book is set in Nazi Germany, Death was pretty busy. The story focuses on Liesel, a nine-year-old, fostered by a family living in Himmel Street. And she steals books.

It’s a beautiful story evoking a multitude of emotions amidst the tragedy that was Nazi Germany that saw the deaths of six million Jews and many, many others. By contrast you have a touching relationship between Liesel and her foster parents…her foster ‘papa’ in particular. Then there's the awkward, but tender friendship between Liesel and her peer, Rudy. This is a story like no other, crafted in an original style.

Ultimately, I rather enjoyed the fact that it was a long book. How many times have you reluctantly reached the end of a book with that mixture of joy to have finished a good story but sad to have to leave the world of the characters you love therein? It was rather comforting to know that for many pages, I wouldn’t be leaving the very endearing Liesel and the wonderful voice of Death.

Read it. Just read it.
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on 9 January 2016
There are very few books that I often recommend to other people. This is one of them. Amongst other things I base my recommendations on how much I enjoyed it, and how much I remember. I read this years ago but still remember most of it. I also remember not putting the book down.

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.
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This is a stunningly beautiful novel of a girl living in Germany during the holocaust, suitable for both teenagers and adults to read. Zusak left me breathless with his descriptions and I always felt connected to the characters in some way or another. It is educational but does not lack strong characters with which you can connect with emotionally. You are taken on a heartbreaking journey through the lives of several characters, many of which you grow to love and feel for. Several times in the book I was bawling my eyes out or crying for pure joy, it really gets to you on an emotional level. It has holocaust themes (obviously) but I would say that they are quite mild. People who are sensitive to these themes can quite easily skip over the details and continue reading on as the book will still make total sense. The way in which Zusak writes is quite inspiring and just reading the descriptions with no storyline or plot would be enough for me! This is one of my favourite books.
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on 10 March 2014
It is clear that Zusak wanted to write a novel exploring the use - and power - of words. So having the novel set in Nazi Germany, a setting where almost all human emotions can be conjured realistically, allows a lot of scope for exploring the greatest impact that words can have on people. Also, considering it is narrated by 'Death', you can expect the thematic emphasis to be on 'negative' emotions - sadness, guilt, anxiety, mistrust, betrayal, paranoia, fear etc. Pretty much the embodiment of Nazi Germany.

I must agree with other reviewers, however, that there is no logical structure to this novel. It doesn't just explore one theme, but many. It's very difficult to get a grasp of what this book is about from the blurb. Whatever is lacking in its plot, however, is more than made up for in its prose. The narration offers many, many interesting and often ironic perspectives. The descriptive language is very unconventional but this is because objects are given a sort of personality and consciousness. It reminds me somewhat of 'The Outsider/Stranger' by Camus, with its fable-like and dreamlike atmosphere.

As a result, characters appear very linear. Everyone has a set personality, and any conflicts of personality or character are exploited by Zusak or 'Death' as if to mock the irrationality of the human heart and feebleness of the soul; yet another underlying theme of the novel. What can be grasped, however, is the narrator's clear obsession with the 'book thief' a.k.a Liesel, the protagonist - a small, typically shy girl who grows in confidence along the years. Respectful to her mother, loves her father, sceptical to other boys around her (there do not appear to be any other young girls in the novel), and passionate about reading. The narrator, 'Death', is certainly intrigued by Liesel's will to live, you could say, and feels powerless in her presence. Thus, Liesel is a very unique character whose honesty and devotion to the human heart is life-affirming. Understandably, I really enjoyed reading about her in the novel.

In order to help some people who really require some concrete themes, I will identify one for you: words. Zusak explores them brilliantly. In particularly emotive conversations, words are not simply 'said', but 'passed on', 'carried', 'climbed on one's shoulder' - they are personified and given a mind of their own, as if they hold all the power to summon a particular reaction. Secondly, there is the repeated occurrence of books - specifically, those encountered by Liesel and more often than not, stolen for the purpose of ravenous reading. Again, the Nazi setting is well founded - their book burning displays disgust Liesel, books are in scarce numbers, certain books are banned, others forced on people. All of this adds value to 'words'. Even newspapers in dustbins are given a new lease of life by Liesel, who carries them to Max (the overly-humble Jew hidden in her house as a favour to one of her dad's friends) to read.

Another and very obvious theme is death. Needless to say, it happens quite a lot in the novel, moreso in the latter stages. It is dealt with as a matter of formality. We are all ticking clocks, as Death would put it, destined to die. Yet it how we respond when faced with the prospect of death that defines our worth. Liesel is a symbol of defiance, and Death finds that both unnerving and fascinating - and much deserving of his respect. Thus, Liesel makes a strong case for our continued existence - humans die, but humanity does not.

Zusak traverses the thorny and sensitive issue of appearing indifferent to the Holocaust through a great irony that is more difficult to miss than acknowledge - how can a despicable, nasty, untrustworthy Jew also show signs of being human - showing a propensity and even a proficiency towards art, books, emotional awareness etc. Wow, even Death isn't as bad as Hitler.

In conclusion, I hope to have shed some light on aspects that this book explores. Even after reading it, I wondered how on earth I could possible summarise it. The answer is - I cannot. Many reviewers state that it is 'beautifully written' and I cannot agree more. This is where the novel really excels and where its uniqueness stems from - its prose. Its language. It is hugely ambitious in this sense, but delivers in a wealth of insightful description that is rare to find in few instanced of other books, let alone in every chapter of this one.
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A fabulous book formulated in a way that very much put me in mind of 'The Boy in the Striped Pajamas'.

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.
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on 3 April 2017
Loved this book and cried. It's loving written . Should be a book for mankind. Just because leaders dictate doesn't mean people do not have their own opinions. Makes you realise that not all humans are monsters"
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on 2 March 2017
A beautiful book. Definitely recommend everyone to read it.
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on 23 April 2017
Oh what a wonderful book. It was recommended by a friend and is amazing. Truly beautiful, read it.... Just read it.....
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on 19 April 2017
The book is thought provoking and should be read by all.Worth talking about with others that have read it. Good book
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 July 2011
The Book Thief is one of those delightful finds that captures your imagination from the very first page and leaves you deep in thought long after you've closed the back cover for the final time.

So many people I know have raved about this book, calling it a `must read', that I had to find out for myself just what all the fuss was about.

Set against a back drop of Hitler's Nazi Germany, this book reminds you that despite the way history paints the WWII. There are good people and bad people in every situation. And not everyone in Germany supported the war.

Narrated by the very colourful Death, the characters are all vividly painted, so that your conscience will make best friends with them and you'll wish you knew them for real.

The story, although under the oppressive backdrop of war, never makes you fret or worry, and even when bad things threaten, the narrator gently navigates you through so that you're not left feeling too anxious or upset.

This is the sort of book the restores your faith in humanity and leaves you feeling uplifted, even when it makes you shed a tear.
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