Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Publication Date: March 2006
Setting: Mulching, Germany-1939
Description: By her brother’s graveside, Liesel Meminger’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Grave Digger’s handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So beings a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up and closed down.
Review: So this is the first review I’ve ever written so you’ll need to bear with me while I get the hang of it.
The book starts off with the narrator, who is not the main character, talking about death and colours. He (it is assumed that the narrator is male, though it is never specified) says that each death has a colour associated with it. Instantly, the reader is required to figure out who the mysterious narrator is and how he knows so much about death. My first guess was that he was a sort of Dementor or the like that feeds on death and despair, but then I quickly hit myself because it was speaking about the deaths of those in the concentration camps and I assumed the narrator was a Nazi soldier. I was wrong, which was proven quickly.
So right off the bat, there’s a death. We meet our main character, Liesel, on a crowded train. Her brother is dead, and they must stop to burry his body. The narrator is present for this, and I started to wonder if the narrator is Death itself. This was proven right as the book continued.
The way the book is written isn’t in chapters, it’s in small stories of about 10-20 pages. Some are longer, some are shorter. It’s separated into 10 different parts, each part with 5-9 stories in it. Some of the story plot lines continue through the entire book (such as the stealing of the books, Max the Jew, and Rudy’s desire to kiss Liesel), while others are just lines in the part. I personally have never read a book written in such a way and that intrigued me. It took me quite a while to get through, upwards of two weeks, but that could be contributed to my busy schedule of late (and tumblr).
While reading Liesel’s story through the words of Death was interesting. He would refer to a book Liesel wrote about her life, and that this entire story was just what she had written down. In the very last part, we are introduced to Liesel writing the book when the Mayor’s Wife stops by her house to give her a present of a small black book. She begins writing her story, starting with when the book started: the first book she stole at her brother’s funeral. She writes the story in their basement, where she had learned to write with Papa and where she spent time with the Jew they hid, Max.
And that’s where everything she knows ends. An air raid occurs, and it isn’t like the others where it’s just precautionary. The only thing is that the sirens didn’t happen in time. The bombs crashed down on the street in which Liesel lived (called Himmel, German for Heaven.). Everyone she knew died, from her best friend and secret love, Rudy, to her Mama and Papa, even Mrs. Diller (the owner of the local candy store, where you had to Heil Hitler otherwise you wouldn’t be served). She was writing, in the basement, while the bombs hit. This is what saved her life.
The narrator tells us this at the beginning of the 10th part, though it doesn’t happen until later that part. He does this to “soften the blow”, to prepare us for what’s coming up. Even knowing that all of this was going to happen, I still cried. I had become attached to Liesel, and felt the pain of a 13 year old girl who had lost the only brother she had, Max, the Jew who felt like a brother, and now she had lost all the people she knew. I cried for the last twenty pages as Death told the final bit of Liesel’s story.
Overall, it was an extremely good book. I am thankful I listened to all the recommendations for it and bought it.