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The Book Thief

A book by Markus Zusak

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In which a beautiful small girl defies the might of Hitler!

  • Mar 21, 2010
"The Book Thief" is an extraordinary book, indeed, the finest I've read in many years! Do you remember all of those aggravating literary clichés you read so often on book covers and publicity blurbs? Haunting, compelling, uplifting, powerful, deeply moving and gut-wrenching? Well, it's hardly overstating the case to suggest that "The Book Thief" has earned every last one of them. The narrator (we call him "Death" - a unique and most appropriate choice under the circumstances) begins the story of 9 year old Liesel Meminger's life in 1930s pre-war Germany as Hitler begins his rise to power.

Given up by an impoverished mother for adoption, Liesel is raised by Hans and Rosa Hubermann, a very ordinary blue collar working class couple struggling from day to day on a very ordinary street in a poor section of Molching, a small, ordinary town on the outskirts of Munich. A very ordinary, modest (one might even say humdrum) opening to a story that is anything but. Liesel's unlikely compulsion to steal books and her learning to read and write at the feet of a loving "Papa" Hubermann are used to illustrate the awesome, virtually unstoppable strength of the written word. Zusak brilliantly shows Hitler wielding this power in his rise to the pinnacle of German politics and in the cruel implementation of his attempted annihilation of Jews, communists, homosexuals, blacks and anything other than his ideal Aryan man and woman.

Zusak has loving created a memorable cast of characters which he has endowed with a most complex set of very human traits - Rosa and Hans, Liesel's foster parents; Rudy, Liesel's best friend and aggravating school mate who endlessly pesters Liesel for his first kiss; Max, the sickly Jew dangerously hidden in the Hubermann's basement; the mayor's wife who struggles against despair after losing her son; and Frau Diller, the spiteful storeowner who refuses to sell a patron anything unless they have duly saluted the Nazi regime and Hitler with a vociferous "Heil Hitler"!

Zusak's prose is poetic in the majesty of its construction. Despite the unavoidable compulsion you will feel to turn the pages ever more quickly as you are drawn into Death's sardonic, witty and brilliant observation of a rapidly unfolding story, every reader will also feel moved to stop and dwell on the beauty of Zusak's words. Keep those tissues handy - you will be moved to tears ... several times!

Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss

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August 10, 2010
I've been halfway wanting to read this book for awhile, but this review has shot it to the top of the list!
August 10, 2010
Be sure to drop back and let me know what you think when you're finished. I'll look forward to hearing. Thanks for the comments.
August 09, 2010
I've been planning to start this one next week! Glad to see such a positive rating,
August 09, 2010
I'm sure you'll enjoy it. This was one of the most moving, emotional books that I ever read in my life.
March 23, 2010
This is a book I started to read, but I never finished! I want to try again in the near future when I have more time to read it. :)
More The Book Thief reviews
review by . October 13, 2010
   I go to my favorite bookstore to get one book in the adult section and always look in the young adult, juvenile, and teen sections (some bookstores separate these, others do not; mine really doesn’t). I see a title that would make any book lover’s heart skip a beat The Book Thief. I grabbed it and added it to my stack. While waiting to check out I read the first couple of pages.       It has taken me quite a long time to read the book. First, the language …
review by . January 03, 2011
I put off reading this book for so long, but then so many of the end of 2010 recaps had this among their favorites of the year so I figured I would give it a try. And I loved it. I think a lot of what caused me to put off reading this was people talking about the “unusual” writing style, which I usually take to mean “flowery prose that must be deciphered” So, I decided to listen to this on audio. Allan Corduner does an amazing job of narrating as Death, as well as bringing …
Quick Tip by . August 07, 2010
One of my all-time favorites! Death as a narrator is eye opening, thought provoking, and compelling. Highly, highly recommended!
Quick Tip by . July 28, 2010
This is a beautifully written book, with a fascinating narrator (Death), wonderful characters and a compelling story. It's really fantastic.
Quick Tip by . July 21, 2010
I absolutely loved this book. It was written so originally. Who would've thought to write a book from the perspective of "Death"? Marcus Zusak did a great job! :)
Quick Tip by . June 28, 2010
Truly a wonderful book! Listed as a young adult novel, don't let it fool you. This is a book for all ages!
Quick Tip by . July 15, 2010
Entertaining children's book about the Holocaust, narrated by Death himself. I probably would have liked it more as a kid, though.
Quick Tip by . June 09, 2010
This book was written very well, yes. It came highly recommended. In fact, it ran through our entire family as each person read it and mailed it to the next on the list. A very good book, sometimes painful, sometimes tender. It's a good read, for sure. It's actually a children's book that broke out into the mainstream market and took off.
Quick Tip by . June 03, 2010
I'm reading this one for a second time, this time audio version and love it even more now. Great book about such awful period in history.
review by . July 22, 2009
It's just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .      Death is the narrator of our tale - and as narrator's go, I actually thought he was quite interesting. He's not as depressing or as loathsome as you might think Death would be. He doesn't wear a cloak or carry a scythe - although he does like that image of himself. And I found it quite beautiful …
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Paul Weiss ()
Ranked #15
   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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Starred Review.Grade 9 Up–Zusak has created a work that deserves the attention of sophisticated teen and adult readers. Death himself narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just stolen her first book–although she has not yet learned how to read–and her foster father uses it,The Gravediggers Handbook, to lull her to sleep when shes roused by regular nightmares about her younger brothers death. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books as well as a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayors reclusive wife (who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents. Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward. Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but he does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesels story all the nuances of chance, folly, and fulfilled expectation that it deserves. An extraordinary narrative.–Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
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ISBN-10: 0375842209
ISBN-13: 978-0375842207
Author: Markus Zusak
Genre: Children's Books, Teens
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
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