Monday, May 9, 2011

Review of The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak
First published in 2005
Thickness: 554 pages (Black Swan edition)
Personal rating: 5 stars

The Book Thief, as the back says, is a story narrated by Death about a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter and quite a lot of thievery.

That's absolutely right, but it is so much more at the same time. This novel has been proclaimed to be a very well written piece of proze and I wholeheartedly agree.
Following the life of Liesel, living on a German street, named Himmel street, in a town near Munich, she does what she has to, to survive. In the meantime she touches the lives of those around her in such a way that they almost all are mesmerized by her.
As you see her struggle to understand the Germany under the influence of Hitler, she tries to make sense of how words seem to have given her happiness and caused so much pain at the same time.

As the title might have given away, this novel is about books, most of them stolen. Not for the maliciousness of the act, but for the sheer need of words and sentences to read.
As Liesel suffers to learn to read properly, she stumbles upon books in the most peculiar, often thieverous ways you can imagine, but she doesn't steal what she doesn't need.
The words that make up those novels become one of her most precious belongings and she uses them whenever they can soothe, or bring a smile to someone's lips.

The story itself is written in a strange way, often with death interrupting the flow of the story to bring a little clarity or to just share or confess something.
It reads like a train, I often had to hold myself back not to speed things up too much, as this is a story I wanted to enjoy for as long as possible.
I felt for Liesel, I felt for her best friend Rudy, for her Papa and her Mama. For her brother that died on the way to Himmel Street and her real mother that left her at the station to be taken care of by others. I felt for Max, the Jew her family hid in the basement and that got his eyes burned while watching the stars when everyone else was sheltering for a possible air raid, for the jews that paraded by on their way to Dachau, for the mere injustice that was Germany in the early 1940's.
In the end I cried, I really cried. Not a single tear or a little wetness of the eyes. I actually had to put the book down to dry my eyes and calm myself a bit before I could read on.

A magnificent book, is all I need to say. The rest you have to discover for yourself.