Wednesday, November 12, 2008

When Death Tells a Story You Better Listen

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Death has been extremely busy in World War II Germany, so he is surprised when his attention is caught by a young girl. He first notices her when he comes to pick up the spirit of her brother and sees her steal her first book (The Grave Digger's Handbook). This girl Liesel Meminger leaves such an impression that he feels compelled to share her story - and it's some story. Liesel is an illiterate daughter of communists who is placed in a foster home by her mother. Her foster parents, Hans, a kind painter and accordian player and Rosa Hubermann who is quick with sharp word (she especially enjoys calling people Saumensch-filthy pigs) give her a loving home. Hans also gives her a gift, one that will sustain her through the difficulties that lie ahead, he teaches her how to read. Along with her friend Rudy, who once painted himself black and pretended to be Jesse Owens as a tribute, Liesel tries to survive the tumultuous times. Faced with hunger, bombings, book burnings, Nazis, fear and suspicion, Liesal steals and reads books to cope. Then things become even more difficult and dangerous when her foster parents hide a Jewish man, Max in their basement.

The narrative style of the novel is interesting, with plenty of asides and foreshadowing. The story is heart wrenching at times and heartwarming at others and you can't help rooting for the strong, yet vulnerable Liesel. Quirky and intelligent, it is a great read. Interestingly this book was first marketed in the United States as a young adult book, but quickly became popular with adults as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this is a very profound book. it takes some time getting into it because the style is very different, but once you do, it is very thought provoking. there are so many layers to this book. it is a great book club book. It is moving and inspiring.