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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 November 2017
Set in Germany during the Second World War this book is narrated by death. Not the vindictive stealer of life we assume, but a more paternalistic purveyor of souls. Like a character from Greek myth he is just there to carry people to the other side. There is almost a tenderness in the way he speaks of carrying the children.

In common with more modern books, such as The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas, The Reader and Valkyrie, this book gives the German perspective. Similar to Anne Frank’s Diary, the reader is introduced to a girl’s perspective and her relationships with German Jews. Initially I wondered why it was necessary for her to be a book thief, apart from her poverty. Then I reflected on the fact that in Nazi Germany a lot of books were burnt, therefore there is something seditious in books themselves. Equally due to her background she has not learned to read very well and this becomes part of her development, although I don’t think this is overly represented in the book.

Liesel’s relationship with Ruddy is one of camaraderie and mutual support. In one sense he is Liesel’s partner in crime when she goes to the mayors house to steal the books. It also emphasises how isolated she is and how much she depends on her relationship with him and Max. Liesel’s adopted parents display both generosity and practicality. Papa is the dreaming musician who paints people’s houses and plays the accordion. He often paints for nothing, including painting over the offensive graffiti daubed on Jewish houses, something which is forbidden by the Nazi’s. It is this behaviour which keeps him out of the party, but it is his generosity giving food to marching Jews which is Liesel’s inspiration for her later actions. Mama is the practical one, taking in ironing to earn money to feed the family. Work which diminishes throughout the novel, whether from poverty or due to her husband’s behaviour it is not totally clear. Yet despite her strict exterior she takes Max in and is concerned that he does not freeze to death in their basement. Max like the mayor’s wife has nothing to give but books. She leaves the window open to allow Liesel access to her library, Max paints over the pages of a book in order to provide a blank page to write Liesel a story. Everyone in the book, despite their poverty, gives, except the Nazi’s who take lives, keeping death busy.

The horror of the holocaust is not minimised by deaths admonition that he is busy following Dachau, but it is not gruesome. It is almost with a sadness that he collects the souls of those who died so young, especially the children. It is then fitting that the book thief lives a long life into old age before death comes to collect her.
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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 24 August 2017
I loved every page of this book. So many great quotes, observations on humanity and images...I just didn't want it to end. In fact, the only thing I didn't like was the relative sudden-ness of the last few chapters. However, the great quotes from the characters and narrator were there right to the (very!) end which somehow compensated.

A superb story, written in a unique and fascinating way. I'm going right back to the beginning to re-read it!
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on 27 December 2016
When I started reading this I thought I was going to struggle with it. I didn't - what I did struggle with was putting it down.

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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For anyone who doesn't know (and hasn't read the summary above), one of the most interesting things about this book is its narrator. Rather than being narrated by Liesel, the protagonist, her story is told through the eyes of Death, who watches Liesel and visits her three times.

This is a really different quirk and Death's narrative voice adds a lot to the story. The book is full of rich metaphors that I think work well because they're told from the point of view of someone who isn't human, or seeing things like us. Death notices colours a lot and describes things in a way we probably wouldn't.

This is a good point and a bad one in my mind, as, while sometimes I think it creates a really beautiful picture of what's happening, other times I feel like I'm trawling through metaphor after simile after metaphor. It all got a bit much after a while, and I sometimes found myself pausing to puzzle over what a metaphor actually meant, which brought me out of the story.

The second world war setting, along with Death narration, brings something very ominous to the story. You know vaguely where it's going to go - not in a predictable way, just in a 'Oh no, awful things are going to happen' kind of way. It also creates characters that you can't help but love in that difficult position. A favourite for me is Hans, Liesel's adoptive Papa who comforts her in her nightmares, teaches her to read and disagrees with the Nazi party, even as he tries to placate them to keep his family safe. It's a complicated situation, one impossible to win really, but he tries so hard to do the right thing.

Liesel herself is a great protagonist - strong, smart, and ultimately flawed in a way that makes her relatable. Sometimes she says awful thing because she is unhappy, she does or doesn't do things she regrets, and that just makes her all the more loveable.

I sometimes found the language a little jarring - often people will say something in German, and then the translation is given too, as if they said that as well. This probably annoys me because I speak German so it was like reading the same phrase/similar thing twice, but when the majority of dialogue is in English it did feel a bit odd.

The ending is a really bitter sweet one. Which is how I often say I like my endings, although this one has a lot more for the bitter and a lot less of the sweet. But there's something about it that makes me not want to describe it as wholly sad. But you shall have to read and judge for yourself, I don't want to spoil anything here!

This is a really beautiful book and you can see why it appeals to adults and younger readers alike, and why it is so internationally read. Reading after such a long time has been like reading it for the first time and I can safely say now it is definitely a book I enjoy, just a little heavy handed with the metaphors for me.
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on 16 October 2016
This has quickly made its way to my list of absolute favourite books. I am sure I'll be rereading and rerereading this in the future. The characters feel real and the way the story is written would only work in this type of media which is what makes it so enticing to read. Liesel's story as a blonde girl growing up in Nazi Germany is not a wild adventure but a lot of events happen which develops each character and the reader learns with Liesel. The message of the book itself, once I finished it, made me think for quite a few weeks. This is one of the very few books that has made me break from reading other books as it made me replay many of the events in my head. I adore this book and would reccommend it to anyone who likes fictional stories (that could easily be real) in a non-fictional setting.
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on 29 April 2015
This book is just fabulous. Zusak proves that having a narrator in first person need not interfere with third person story telling, as he effortlessly zooms in and out without us even being aware of it.

Without giving too much away, this story is narrated by Death, who is taking time out from a busy schedule to share the story of Liesel, a young German girl living near Munich during WWII. It is stunningly well written - the small asides and quips and explain actions from Death give us a plausible, even likeable character narrator but this is just as much Liesel's tale and gradually you start to hear it in her own words.

There are books that come close to encapsulating the sheer insanity of WWII and the one twisted mind authoring the controlled chaos in Europe - this book, a modern fable, comes closer than most. This is 'Death and the Maiden' and how words are magic - the right words, delivered in the right way at a nipper tune time, can change the world.

Liesel, Rudy, Hans, Max and Rosa are all really engaging characters. I defy you to dislike any of them. The atmospheric and colorful descriptions are mind bendingly good. And there is a delicious but bitter irony in Death contemplating the futility of it all and finding solace in a few human's stories.

I like the fact that this delicately treats with the fact that the Germans were being starved and bullied and dictated : it was the Nazi's who spread the propaganda and furthered the agenda, not the nation as a whole. Those who didn't fall in line got a thin time. It's a side of the story that gets neglected somewhat.

Overall 5++++ stars. I'll read and re-read this many times.
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on 16 August 2015
I Don't want to go into a massive review about this book because there are so many out there.

However, I will give you a brief outline of my reading experience:

I love the structure of the book - the way it's been set out with little asides from Death. Very well done, and the fact that it is narrated by Death gives it such a unique voice. Death is a soulful, feeling character who experiences the devastation of this story just as much as we do.

The characters are all wonderful: I couldn't help bit loving Rudy and Leisel. Even more so, I loved the relationship between Leisel and Hans - the feels nearly killed me. Max was such a heartbreaking character but I think he was definitely my favourite.

And yes, this is a tear-jerker. I finished this book on a slow day at work and had to spend the afternoon fielding questions from my co-workers about why I was crying. You are warned: YOU WILL CRY.

It would have been a 5-Star read except that, for all it's a wonderfully written book that I very much enjoyed; I found that once I had put it down for the day, I wasn't very compelled to pick it back up the next. It took me a lot longer than usual to read this one
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on 18 April 2015
I read this with my nearly 10 years old daughter. I had my reservations, I must say, as I thought it might be too sad and hard for her to grasp and enjoy. Boy, was I wrong!

From the first pages we were both thoroughly captivated by the beautiful style, the wonderful imagery, the soft pace of the story.

It took us longer than usual to read it, as she didn't have all the background information regarding the war, etc. We stopped at times to do some research, to look up words, facts, etc.

Other times we stopped because we couldn't deal with what we knew was coming...

It's a story full of sadness, no doubt, deep sorrow and heartbreak. But it's also full of beauty and strength and wonder.

This book will stay with me forever and, I hope, with my child too.

We cried together, we laughed together, we got tangled in dread and anticipation together. It is certainly the best book we read together and one of the very best I ever read myself.

My daughter also wanted to write her own review, so I pass the keyboard over to her!

The Book Thief is my favourite book of all time, ever! Although it was really sad it really, in my opinion, brings people together. I really think many people would enjoy The Book Thief. Just one thing...I don't suggest you read it with very young children because, as said before, it is very sad. I would give this book 100 out of 100 stars any day!
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