Monday, May 11, 2015

Review - The Book Thief

The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
Date: 2005
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 442
Format: e-book
Source: library


1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.

Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.


It's a small story, about:

a girl

an accordionist

some fanatical Germans

a Jewish fist fighter

and quite a lot of thievery.


(synopsis from Goodreads)

I've been putting off reading this book for a long time.  I'm not sure why.  Every time I said, "I need to read this one," I'd get sidetracked by something else.  Then the movie came out, and I said, "I really need to read this one," and I even avoided watching the movie or reading too much about it for fear of spoilers... but I still didn't read the book.  I finally picked it up and, even though I was a little daunted by the length and the subject matter, I worked my way through it.  I'm glad I did.

Please, dear author, I want some more...

Even though I might say (if asked) that my favourite genre is fantasy, I usually end up enjoying historical fiction when I do tackle it.  This book is definitely historical fiction, but at times there is a whiff of fantasy, as the narrator is a personified Death.  That aspect alone makes this book unlike anything I've read before, and I thought it was well done.

But, really, this is a story about books and words and how they have the power to affect -- and even save -- lives.  In that respect, it's kind of a bibliophile's dream.

It's all a matter of taste...

If you're not a fan of sad books, be forewarned.  Although nothing comes unexpectedly, thanks to Death giving us lots of warning about what's about to happen (and thank goodness for that; I think it would be too much if it hit the reader all at once), it's still gut-wrenching and heartbreaking.

Let's get technical...

Markus Zusak seems to play a little fast and loose with the rules of grammar, and even sometimes changes the definitions of words to suit his own needs.  I've come across this in other books -- where it really bothers me -- but here, I didn't mind so much.  I got the impression that, rather than making unintentional mistakes, Zusak was simply breaking rules that he was already familiar with.

The verdict...

On the whole, I enjoyed this book quite a lot (if "enjoyment" is even the right word for a story like this).  A simple-yet-complex plot, memorable characters, and a strong pace (despite the length) make it a great read.  I can see why so many people love this one.

Quotable moment:

The accordion's scratched yet shiny black exterior came back and forth as his arms squeezed the dusty bellows, making it suck in the air and throw it back out. In the kitchen on those mornings, Papa made the accordion live. I guess it makes sense, when you really think about it.

How do you tell if something's alive?

You check for breathing.

Premise: 5/5
Plot: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 4/5
Originality: 5/5
Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.38 out of 5 ladybugs


  1. I've been wanting to read this one and scared to do so. I don't do sad, but I'm told how good it is and the whole the narrator is Death thing sounds awesome. Terry Pratchett often uses Death as a narrator, but his books are comedy fantasy.

    1. It was really good, but now that I've had a few days to think about it, I'm not sure if I'd read it again for... you know... fun. It was great to see that time period from the "other side" (usually books from this time period focus on the experience of the Jews, not the Germans) and the whole Death as narrator thing was kind of neat. But it's not one of those books that I'm going to want to pick up every few years just because I enjoyed it so much and had so much fun reading it the first time.