Author Markus Zusak
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.
GEMS: The Book Thief is unarguably a well-written, compelling story addressing life during the war by following the common daily struggles of the people of Himmel Street. It is a difficult task for a writer to not overwhelm a reader with so much death and tragic subject matter, but Zusak does it stunningly and with a honesty that forges a unique depth in each character. I think this is a superb young adult book that communicates the time period through well-crafted characters and provides a tiny peek into the hardships faced by all German citizens during the war. Although the families were not Jews, the humanity and sympathy they felt for what was occurring in the country mixed with their own powerlessness and fear to stop what was happening is honorably depicted and gives an important insight into the complexity of humanity.
FLAWS: This is a personal opinion, but I was not a fan of ‘Death’ as the narrator. Particularly, I did not like the excerpt of commentary throughout the book. I found it distracting, intrusive and interruptive to the flow. The story is to be told from Death’s perspective but wavers often to Liesel’s, the Book Thief’s, perspective. A duel attempt is made to give a different, but similar perspective of humanity, but I’m not sure it heightened or was necessary to include. I’m also not a big fan of epilogues in any book, and specifically was annoyed with the use of this technique in the Book Thief. It was powerful enough to stand alone without the after thoughts. I felt by doing so, it distracted from the imagery that built towards the ‘end.’