Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

The Book Thief Markus Zusak book cover
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Date: September 18, 2007
Source/Format: Bought || Paperback

By her brother's graveside, Liesel Meminger's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Grave Digger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down. (from Goodreads)

I started The Book Thief with the knowledge that I was beginning a book with a reputation that preceded it – a book that had left a very strong impression on those who had read it. While it took a while for me get into the writing style, I fell head over heels in love with this story. It’s powerful and moving and beautiful and inspiring, and serves as a reminder of why I want to write stories. Though I’m almost certain that my review will be inadequate to express how amazing this book is, I sure want to try to tell you why I love it so.

First, there are these incredible characters. This story is filled to the brim with characters, both primary and secondary, that play a part in the constantly shifting, weaving storyline. Death narrates this story, and while I thought that was peculiar at first, I have come to realize that it was a wonderfully unique way of telling this story. Death, obviously, is not emotionally attached to these people, but he is fascinated by them and interested in them and eager to share what he knows with us about Liesel and her life.

Liesel is a character that I just wanted to hug and hand cookies and books to. She endures a lot of hardship at such a young age – death and hunger and pain and ostracizing – and yet, she still manages to have an indomitable, strong spirit. I admired her courage when faced with scary or new situations, her tenacity and desire to read and read and read, and her unquestionable loyalty and love for the ones she loves.

And, obviously, I think the fact that she wanted all of the books was something I could definitely relate to! The books, in fact, are what serve as the cornerstone for the beginnings of her relationship with her foster father Hans and Max, the Jew that they hide in the basement. Hans teaches Liesel to read and to recognize words, and the intimacy and sweetness of their father-daughter relationship just brought me to tears every single time. With Max on the other hand, the words were something that they ended up clinging to as their common ground. Words unite them, words are a language they both know and words prove to be an incredibly significant part of their lives.

Then, there’s the story. I say this all the time, and after reading this book, I am convinced that it is truer than ever – words have power. We see this evidenced time and again throughout the story, and each time there was a new example of it, I could feel my heart swell.

The relationships between the characters, the historical facts and musings tossed in, the descriptions of the settings and the people and the world at that time – all of it was impeccably written. I seriously find myself thinking about Adolf Hitler and the history of that time, and marveling at the fact that this (fictional) opinion of him is something that I can truly agree with. This story is a collection of beautifully curated prose, with carefully chosen words, and I closed the cover feeling like I had gone through a tremendously moving journey.

It is fairly obvious that I loved this book. While it’s certainly not the easiest story to read (and not just because it’s fairly lengthy), I can assure you that I truly believe it is worth it. The finesse and the cleverness with which the author wielded his words certainly made an impression on me – and that impression implores me to recommend that you read this book. If you’re hesitating or if you’ve been on the edge or if you’ve been putting it off, consider this review an invitation to finally allow yourself to be immersed in a story that will touch your heart and make you think.

49 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you loved this one! I agree that it's a book you have to take your time for, and you also have to be in the right mood to read it, but the characters are amazing, the words beautiful and the story outstanding. And now I want to re-read it. Again.

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    1. In the future, I'm pretty sure that I'm going to want to read this one again as well. It's such a powerful, moving story.

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  2. Your review makes me want to read it again! I loved this book. So glad you enjoyed it!

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  3. This is a really great review. I read this book so long ago, but you really brought it all back. Made me want to read it again....

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  4. Omg I SO have to read this one! It's been on my shelf for way too long and it sounds completely amazeballs! I especially love how much character development this book seems to have. I love that it's narrated by Death that's kind of mind blowing! Fantastic review, Alexa! I'm giving this book the eye on my shelf right now! >.<

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    1. I think the fact that Death narrates the story is what sets this book apart. Though it leaves you a bit detached from the characters, it also provides an interesting perspective.

      Plus, the other characters that Death talks about are AMAZING.

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  5. Reviews for this one are so HARD to write. I'm pretty sure mine was super short because I just didn't have the WORDS. So glad you loved it.

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    1. I tried, and hopefully, I succeeded to express how much I loved this one!

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  6. I really loved this one! Glad you liked it also and great review. (:

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  7. Words have POWER. I know this book is so loved. I will have to make it a priority this year!

    Great review!

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    1. That's one of the main takeaways from this book - WORDS HAVE POWER. Seriously, they do.

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  8. I can safely say, I've only ever heard good things about The Book Thief, and have made it a part of my 2013 catch-up challenge. From what I gather, it's not a easy book to read but it IS one that's worthwhile. Stories like this that touch the heart and feed the soul are the ones that always, without a doubt, stand the test of time. I'm looking forward to reading it!

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    1. I hope that you do end up reading it, and that you enjoy it as much as I did. It took a while for me to finish, but I savored every moment!

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  9. I just purchased this book last weekend while on a day trip. The Book Thief has been on my wish list for awhile because everyone who's read this book that I've met says it's fabulous!

    As much as I want to begin reading this book asap, I have a few other books to read lined up first.

    Thanks for another good review!

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    1. I can't wait for you to start reading this book. I waited TWO YEARS before I picked it up, so I don't think there's any rush. The perfect time for you to read it will come along :)

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  10. I LOVED LOVED LOVED. Reading this I read it so long ago that I actually forgottenit was on my bookshelf picking up dust! I think I am going to re-read so I am re-kindle the love I had for this story the first time.

    AMAZING review Alexa,

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    1. I'm so glad that I nudged you to re-read this one. It's just so good! I'm pretty sure that I'm going to read it again eventually.

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  11. Alexa, this might just be my favourite review of yours EVER. You reflect my own feelings towards this book here perfectly. The characters, Liesel, the writing... I loved it all and I'm SO glad you gave this a chance. Brilliant, brilliant review!

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    1. Oh wow, thank you! I'm honored. I tried my best to express what I felt about this book and I sincerely hope I did it justice.

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  12. Firstly, this was a beautifully written review. You obviously spent time crafting it to do this great book justice. I also loved The Book Thief, and your review made me want to read it again, in part because I read it when I was a younger and less experienced reader. I thought it was amazing then, but I wonder how much I would get out of it now that I'm a more seasoned/avid reader.

    I completely agree with you about the power of words, and I think this book did such a beautiful job of showing it. Books and words are such a driver in Liesel's life but also impact the people/world around her as well.

    This was such a unique portrayal of WWII and that's hard to do as an author. To bring something new to a subject that's already been handled dozens of times.

    So glad you enjoyed this book!
    Lauren @ Hughes Reviews

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    1. Thanks for the lovely comment! I love when books send messages that I agree with, and in this case, it really affected me because I believe words do have a certain kind of power.

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  13. Of course I have heard countless great things about this book but I have never picked it up myself. I am starting to venture out of my reading comfort zone though and from your review this definitely sounds like something I should read. Great great review! Thanks for sharing :)

    Amy @ Following the Reader

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    1. I definitely hope you end up picking up a copy of this book. It's really, really worth it!

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  14. I've heard some amazing things about this book! I've had it on my shelf FOREVER, but still haven't read it. I'll definitely have to read is soon to see what all the fuss is about! :)

    Great review, Alexa!

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    1. I hope you get a chance to read it! It's one of my favorites of the year, and I think you'll like it as well.

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  15. I want to reread this book now, it's been so long since the first time. I just remember that I absolutely loved it, and subsequently, devoured everything by Markus Zusak shortly after. Great review!

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    1. A friend of mine has told me I need to read I Am the Messenger! It sounds like his other books are incredible too.

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  16. Oh yay! I am so happy you enjoyed it! You are a fantastic writer and everything you said about the book is SO SO true. I remember reading this book back in highschool and I truly felt changed after I had finished it. Great review!

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    1. Rachel! Thank you so much for what you said <3 It truly means a lot. I'm happy you enjoyed my review!

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  17. LOVE this book and I LOVE your review! I feel so many of the same things about this book that you did. So many intense, heartfelt emotions while reading. The writing is beautiful and this is one of my all time favorite books! The characters really do just rip your heart out you feel so much for them. And I thought the view of Death as the narrator was so creative and clever! Just fell in love with it :)

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    1. I think it's one of the most creative, most thoughtful books I've ever read. It's definitely one of my favorites.

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  18. Markus Zusak's writing > everything.

    I'm reading this for my English independent study assignment soon and I'm so excited. I am going to cry, I know, but sometimes that is nice. (a la Tiger Lily, amirite?)

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    1. YES! (To sobbing over Tiger Lily and to your comment) I can't wait for you to read this :)

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  19. Great review! I'm so glad you loved it! I didn't expect the book would greatly affect me. It's just soooo good! After reading this, Markus Zusak automatically became one of my all-time favorite authors. He's working on a new book now and I do hope he'll release it soon.

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    1. RIGHT? I wasn't sure what to expect, but I didn't expect to fall head over heels in love with this book.

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  20. I'm ashamed to say that I have yet to read this! A book narrated by Death, though? Colour me intrigued! Hmm, I think 2013 will be the year in which I finally read The Book Thief. Great review!

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    1. I do hope you get the opportunity to read this book. It's so beautiful and different.

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  21. meep I know I need to read this one soon! It's on my shelf and everything. I really hope I love it as much as everyone else. :)

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    1. I hope you do too! I have a feeling you'll find it clever :)

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  22. THIS BOOK. There are no words to express how deeply affecting it was for me. So glad to hear you loved it, too!

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    1. I tried my very best to share how profoundly moved I was after reading this. I hope I did it justice!

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  23. <<<<33333 LOVE! That's like my heart expanding in size reading your review because I just love this book and get filled with such joy when I see that other people love it too! It's just one of those books. I did an audio re-read of this last year and really enjoyed it. I love the reader, and it made me fall even more in love with the book!

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    1. I loved it. I didn't expect to love it quite this much, but I did. It's just so beautiful and different and well-written!

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  24. You're making me want to do a re-read!! I LOVE this book so much! It's a book that definitely stays with you. I wanted to hug pretty much all the characters and there were moments that broke my heart and GAH! I just want to go read it again! I'm so glad you loved it!

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    1. I'm so glad that I've been getting the attention of both people who haven't read it and people who have. It's such a wonderful book, and I really think everyone should give it a go.

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  25. Oh wow. I read this book so long ago - I really want to read it again. I rad a review on Hannah's blog (So Obsessed With) that makes me want to do an audio re-read, so I think that's the route I'll choose next time.

    Gosh, it's been so long since I've read it, but I remember that I really loved the father, and of course Max. But most of all, I think, the thing that stood out to me was that the narrator used color in his narrative. I'm not sure why I loved that so much, but I love the use of color in any book. It was so vivid to me. And I noticed it from the beginning, which meant that it didn't really take me that long to have a connection with the book, where I know that it did for a lot of my reading friends.

    Great review, Alexa! This is one that a lot of people enjoy. You kind of make me want to read it again right now.

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    1. Yes! The use of color was certainly different, and interesting, and wonderful. And I'm glad that I made you want to read it again!

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  26. Awesome review, Alexa! I agree with pretty much everything you said, it was such a great read. Thanks for the read along, I don't know if I would have stuck with it in the beginning if it weren't for that, and it was so incredibly worth it in the end.

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    1. Even though we never turned it into a formal thing, I'm glad we started together. It gave me the push I need to find this amazing book!

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