The Book Thief
By Markus Zusak
The Book Thief, set in a small German town during the 2nd World War, tells the story of a young girl Leisel Meminger. It opens with her being taken to a foster home along with her brother. On the way her brother dies and has to be buried. That's where Leisel steals her first book - A Gravedigger's Handbook. She preserves it as the last link to her family even though she cannot read.
With the help of her gentle foster father, Hans, she learns to read falling in love with the written word. The book talks of her journey as she grows into an aggressive yet sensitive, football playing, boy bashing, book loving girl.
As the war progresses Hans gives shelter to a Jew Max, and Leisel strikes up a wonderful relationship with him. Max strengthens her friendship with the written word.
During the bombings Leisel passes time and comforts the townsfolk by reading in the underground shelter. She spends time writing in her own basement and that is what saves her life.
As a rule I dislike 'sad' books with no happily ever after. This one turns out to be an exception. If I had to describe The Book Thief in one word I'd call it 'unusual'. It took me the first few pages to realise the story is a first person account by 'Death'. It is Death who labels Leisel the book thief while turning out to be a book thief himself.
The other thing that I liked about the book was the non-Jew perspective of the War. I've read many books on the 2nd World War (there's something fascinating about a single small man taking on the world) but most have been from a Jewish perspective. That many non-Jew Germans hated and dreaded the war as much, that they hated Hitler with the same intensity, made for a refreshing read.
Lastly, I loved the way the book is written. At the start of each chapter Death gives a summary, spilling all the suspense, telling you how the chapter will unfold. Which author has the courage to do that? To play his own spoilsport? This one does. And Death makes for a wonderful narrator - witty and garrulous and with a bit of a heart too.
The Book Thief certainly doesn't have a 'happily ever after'. How can it when Death is the tale spinner? However barely anywhere does it come across as a sad-depressing-heavy story. Maybe it is because of the strain of humour runs through the book or that it has a lively protagonist in Leisel - I cannot say. But it certainly doesn't pull you down.
All I'll say is - Give it a read.
PS: It's a free online read.
Linking to Write Tribe's super initiative '7 days of rediscovering your blogging grove' where we blog seven days in a row according to a format. The idea is inspired by Darren Rowse. Today, on Day 3, we had to 'Write a Review'.
For more reviews hop across to the Write Tribe blog.
Labels: book review, Markus Zusak, reading, The Book Thief, WW II