Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
# of Pages: 550
Amazon review at: http://tinyurl.com/rz4wx
I know I’ve just said that Naomi Novik’s book was a “wow.” But this book is a wow on a different scale. Novik’s book was “wow” in an entertaining, thoroughly imaginative, fantastic way.
Zusak’s book is WOW (yes, all capitals) in a completely absorbing, heart-rending, leave-you-breathless way.
Last year, the book that stuck with me for the whole year was Carlos Ruiz-Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind. This year, I can almost say for sure that it will be Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Interesting, as both of them take place either during or right after WWII and both stories center around a child who is enthralled by books.
Zusak’s story is narrated by Death, and is about a young girl (Liesel Meminger) who goes to live with foster parents (Hans and Rosa Hubermann) in Molching, Germany during World War II. Her foster parents later take in a Jewish man named Max and hide him in their basement. Liesel becomes best friends with a boy from down the street, Rudy Steiner. Together, Liesel, Rudy, Hans and Rosa and Max all do their own little parts to fight the terror that is Nazi Germany. And all of them reap tiny but significant rewards for it. And all ultimately suffer for it.
The Book Thief is nothing short of amazing. I don’t know how else to describe it. The writing is absolutely beautiful. It’s as if poetry became a masterpiece of art and wrote itself onto paper. There were many times while reading the book where I noted a particularly descriptive passage, or paused over a haunting series of words.
And not only the writing style, but just the story itself enthralls. There are so many scenes that are unforgettable. A Jewish man writing a story for a girl on pages of Mein Kampf. A boy jumping into a freezing river to save a book. A girl marching into a long line of Jews to spend a brief moment with her friend. A man painting over a derogatory word on a storefront. Champagne. A snowball fight in a basement. A much sought-after kiss, too late. A boy standing up for his friend and being punished for it. A man dreaming of killing Hitler in a boxing match.
I don’t even really know how to put my reaction to this book into words. It was a thoroughly moving experience, reading it. And savoring the language Zusak employs to tell his story.
I feel privileged to have spent a short amount of time getting to know some truly remarkable people. It is wonderful to get a story of WWII told from the point of view of a German, and especially of a group of Germans who dared stand up, as much as they could, to the Nazi party. I hope you go out and get yourself a copy of this book to read. I guarantee that it will be one of your top reads for the year. And that it is one of those that will stay with you for a long, long time.