Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I thoroughly enjoyed this month's book club selection, The Book Thief, a novel I'm afraid a lot of people are missing because it was marketed as a Young Adult book here in the U.S.

Set near Munich during WWII, this novel tells the story of a young German girl living with a foster family and trying to cope with the daily realities of the war. She exerts a measure of control over her life by stealing books even though she is illiterate when her story begins. Though marketed as a teen book, I think The Book Thief far transcends that limited label. The message, the sensitivity of the subject matter, and the stunning prose mark this as a powerful novel of the Holocaust. This book is by turns gritty and ugly and redemptive, but is it always real and always gripping.

Populated with strange and wonderful characters, the story itself is narrated by Death, whose reflections lend even greater poignancy to the sad tale that slowly and artfully unfolds through the novel. Death often offers commentary on both the life of the Book Thief and on the war itself in a voice that sent chills down my spine:

An abridged roll call for 1942:
1. The desperate Jews- their spirits on my lap as we sat on the roof, next to the steaming chimneys.
2. The Russian soldiers- taking only small amounts of ammunition, relying on the fallen for the rest of it.
3. The soaked bodies of a French coast- beached on the shingle and sand.

Death views war as a harsh taskmaster, and marvels that humans have so perfected the means for mass killing. While Liesel's story focuses on the realities of the war from a personal perspective, Death's commentary keeps the big picture in focus, and reminds the reader of the context of the tale. I would highly recommend this book to any adult reader, and would love to know if any of you have read it?

Other Reviews (per Weekly Geeks):
A Striped Armchair
Historical Tapestry
Clare Swindlehurst
Passion for the Page
Dewey at Weekly Geeks


Darcie said...

I have read the Book Theif and enjoyed it as well. I also am surprised that it is categorized as YA I thought it was pretty dark. I bet it was a great book discussion!

Mrs S said...

I expect a lot of people missed this book due to its location on the YA shelf - I'm just thankful to another blogger for reviewing it so I knew to go and seek it out! Here's my review per the weekly geeks