Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Review: The Book Thief

"You could argue that Liesel Meminger had it easy. She did have it easy compared to Max Vandenburg. Certainly, her brother practically died in her arms. Her mother abandoned her.

But anything was better than being a Jew."

-The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, page 168

This book has wrapped itself around my brain and made a dent in my heart. I have about 100 pages left and I do not want to finish it. I know what is coming. I want to avoid it. If I don't read then it won't happen...but I can't put it down.

This book by Markus Zusak is written about WWII Germany as told by Death. That's right. It is a book about Death, through the eyes of Death. You would assume that it would be dark but Death is actually very articulate (hmmm thats a surprise) when it comes to finding goodness and beauty in a time of war and hate.

Liesel Memenger is our protagonist. She and her brother are sent to live with Hans and Rosa Huberman on Himmel Street (Himmel = Heaven) but before they reach their destination Liesel's brother dies. Liesel steals a book at his grave (The Gravedigger's Handbook) as a final tolken of her brother. Although she cannot read she becomes fascinated with words and through midnight lessons with Hans she learns to love reading and language. "The first book was stolen from the snow, the second was stolen from fire." Liesel starts to steal books when she can (like from a book burning held in honor of Hitler's birthday). Words and thievery become a distraction from the harsh realities of life on Himmel street. There is a boy named Rudy (who happens to be my favorite) and a Jewish fist fighter named Max who hides in the Huberman's basement at great emotional and physical cost.

The book is written so beautifully. Certain phrases will stay with you for hours, days even. The perspective is genius.

So now I will go finish the book (sigh) and finish the review when I am done.

*********

Finished.

I cannot say enough about this book.
One thing I loved is that it was full of powerful lines and observations delivered by Death. Time after time there would be an observation that would leave me pondering for hours about life, death, hate, or love. Death is very compassionate and although he is Death he asks the same questions that the rest of the world asks about the ways of the world.

"I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant."

The relationships that are forged between Liesel and Rudy, Max, Papa (Hans), Mama (Rosa) and even Ilsa (the Mayor's wife) are so beautiful. This book was beautiful and it examines human nature. Rudy was a happy break from some of the heavy material. Yes he was a boy living in the midst of war but mostly he was just a boy. Of their relationship Death says:

"He was the crazy one who had painted himself black and defeated the world. She was the book thief without the words. Trust me though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain."


I loved the Word Shaker (basically a connection between Hitler and Liesel) and the power of words and what they could do:

"The best word shakers were the ones who understand the true power of words. They were the ones who could climb the highest. One such word shaker was a small, skinny girl. She was renowned as the best word shaker of her region because she knew how powerless a person could be without words."

I can't say enough about this book. This book needs to be in every readers personal library.




5 comments:

Stephanie said...

Well, you've got me convinced that I need to go out and find this book tomorrow. Luckily, I needed a new read anyway :) Tell me how the Road is.

Margie said...

Great review!! The library didn't have the book, but I have a couple of people who might let me borrow it. Thanks for sharing

Adam said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa said...

Adam posted a comment with some spoilers so I deleted it knowing that my mom is reading the book right now.

Adam hated the book, only reading the first 50 pages and then turning to audio book. He didn't like the story line and decided right away that he was going to listen to it while playing world of warcraft, grading papers, working on lesson plans, and reading various internet sights. Part of the value of the book were the subtle hints death would drop, the little one line anticdotes that had nothing to do with the story but everything to do with the tone and emotion of the book. Adam missed all of those.

He may argue that he understood the storyline which he did for the most part but he would say "I don't get what is going on here, what does a tree shaker have to do with anything and why is he talking about it." Well dear, a major part of what you are supposed to understand, the theme of the story, the mind of a certain character.

Adam read the surface of the story (barley) It was like reading a spiritual text without the spirit presence so he got nothing out of it. He didn't allow himself to become attached to the characters because he decided early on not to enjoy the story, rather to enjoy his game or his own interests. Perhaps if I had pretended to like his book he would have shown more interest in mine.

This book receives amazing reviews 98 percent of the time. I really think if Adam had allowed himself to listen to the book rather than hear it, he too would have given it a good review.

Melissa said...

Adam posted a comment with some spoilers so I deleted it knowing that my mom is reading the book right now.

Adam hated the book, only reading the first 50 pages and then turning to audio book. He didn't like the story line and decided right away that he was going to listen to it while playing world of warcraft, grading papers, working on lesson plans, and reading various internet sights. Part of the value of the book were the subtle hints death would drop, the little one line anticdotes that had nothing to do with the story but everything to do with the tone and emotion of the book. Adam missed all of those.

He may argue that he understood the storyline which he did for the most part but he would say "I don't get what is going on here, what does a tree shaker have to do with anything and why is he talking about it." Well dear, a major part of what you are supposed to understand, the theme of the story, the mind of a certain character.

Adam read the surface of the story (barley) It was like reading a spiritual text without the spirit presence so he got nothing out of it. He didn't allow himself to become attached to the characters because he decided early on not to enjoy the story, rather to enjoy his game or his own interests. Perhaps if I had pretended to like his book he would have shown more interest in mine.

This book receives amazing reviews 98 percent of the time. I really think if Adam had allowed himself to listen to the book rather than hear it, he too would have given it a good review.