Wednesday, 8 July 2009

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.

I can count on one hand the amount of books I would be willing to read again but I believe The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak might be at the top of that very short list. In fact I was sorely tempted to turn to the first page again immediately after finishing the last which is something I never do.

Set in 1939 Nazi Germany and narrated by Death, it tells the story of 9yr old Liesel who is fostered by Hans and Rosa Hubermann when her own parents are sent to a concentration camp. The Hubermanns' live on Himmel Street which we are told means Heaven. By the time she reaches the Hubermann house she has already stolen her first book from the graveside of her 6yr old brother.

The plot concerns itself with:

a girl

an accordionist

some fanatical Germans

a Jewish fist fighter

and quite a lot of thievery.

At the heart of the story lies the power of words, how they can change lives for ill or good and one child's attempt to make the horror of the world around her a little more bearable. Even Death has an amusing side to his nature as he observes the best and worst in humankind. He declares himself openly on the very first page with the statement:

Here Is A Small Fact

You are going to die.

But immediately soothes the reader by following up with:

Does this worry you?

I urge you - don't be afraid.

I'm nothing if not fair.

So even though we know the fate of the characters before we meet them, our interest is heightened not diminished by prior knowledge of their fate. They perhaps seem more alive to us because we know what will become of them and the small town they inhabit as the bombs begin to fall.

The language is plain and the style cryptic as the author playfully concocts images and characters who will remain with you long after the close of Death's final statement.

I laughed out loud and shed tears reading this book and I cannot recommend it highly enough.


  1. Another one that I haven't heard of. That happens far too often, I think. Thanks for the pointer. He's sold a million copies of that book according to the Random House web site. I'm beginning to think that my reading habits tend toward the odd. More often than not, I can't find a copy of what I'm looking for in our local used book store, which is situated in a weird college town. Alas.

  2. Many of the updates you give on Goodread are not familiar to me either which is more about geography and taste I think.
    Have you tried Betterworld books which posts for free within the U.S.? They charge $3.99 to post to the likes of me but I have managed a couple of bargains from them. They donate money to good causes too which is always a bonus.

  3. No, I hadn't tried Betterworld Books, but I will! I just ran a search for a Southern Writer named Larry Brown that I've been thinking about reading and received all the hits I could want there. Thanks for the site name!


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