Wednesday, 29 January 2014

'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak (2006)

Synopsis: The Australian author of The Book Thief, Markus Zusak, has a German mother and an Austrian father. Their stories about growing up during WWII inspired Zusak to write his book. The Book Thief is set in Germany during the years from 1939 to 1943. It tells the story of a young girl called Liesel Meminger. She and her younger brother Werner are sent to live with a couple called Hans and Rosa Hubermann. They travel to the Hubermann's home in Molching (a small town on the outskirts of Munich). However, Werner dies on the journey and this prompts Liesel to take a book from the cemetery called "The Gravedigger's Handbook". This is her first act of book thievery. Liesel continues to steal books and by reading them she learns about the significance and power of words and literature. She also forges deep and loving bonds with her foster parents, a neighbouring boy called Rudy, and a Jewish man called Max who is secretly living in her house. The Book Thief is narrated by the personification of Death - who has had a number of encounters with Liesel and took a diary that she wrote in. In a way this makes both of them book thieves.

The Book Thief is a very awkward book for me to review and this post will be one of my shorter reviews. I first read The Book Thief several years ago but I felt I should give it a re-read before I saw its upcoming film adaptation. The film isn't out until the 26th of February in the UK.

I remember loving The Book Thief the first time I read it but although I still enjoyed it this time around I found it harder to get through. As I was reading The Book Thief it dawned on me that the book hasn't really stayed with me or left that much of an emotional impact on me. The book hasn't been a "life-changer" for me and I was really surprised at how much of its story I'd forgotten. For this reason I can't call the book an all-time favourite of mine.

I wouldn't have a problem in recommending The Book Thief at all because I know that many readers have been deeply moved by it and the book has some great messages. The book reminds us of the brutality and horror of war. The characters are likeable and engaging; my favourite being the lovely Max Vandenburg. Zusak's writing is descriptive and haunting. There are many lines in the book that I absolutely loved; lines like "I am haunted by humans" and "I have loved the words and I have hated the words and I hope I have made them right". However I've come to the conclusion that the book would have probably left much more of an impact on me if Liesel herself had been the narrator. Having Death as the narrator of the story is a very interesting idea but I think it makes for a lack of intimacy and empathy which is really important for a story like The Book Thief. I still like The Book Thief but I don't enjoy it nearly as much as everyone else seems to.

Rating: 4/5


bookwormans said...

I'm starting this book today!

S. said...

I just finished reading The Book Thief earlier this had a lot of very interesting ideas in it, and I agree with you that the author sure does write well! :) I'm not quite sure how much I like it though, yet. ;)

P.S. I'm your newest follower, and I like your blog. :)

Hannah said...

Hello! We "meet" at last! ;) And thanks for the comment, it was much appreciated.

Hamlette said...

You know, I read this a couple years ago, and I don't think I even blogged about it. I liked several characters really well, I remember the story line just fine and some details rather vividly, and Death as a narrator managed to not be gimmicky. But all the same, the book felt... off. Something about it just struck the wrong chord with me or something, and when I finished it, I said, "Well, that was interesting, and I have no desire to ever read that again." I had about the same reaction to "The Help." Hmm.

Hannah said...

I can see where you're coming from, Hamlette. Objectively I think 'The Book Thief' is great. It has so much going for it and it doesn't have any major faults that I can think of. I'm really looking forward to the film. But the book just doesn't move me as much as other books that I've read and I really don't know why :S

Hamlette said...

Exactly. It's well-crafted, it's engaging, I was really absorbed while I read it... but I still just didn't like it that much.