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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
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The Book Thief (original 2005; edition 2008)

by Markus Zusak

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25,281152444 (4.37)4 / 1768
Heard a lot about this… all of it good… about how tear-jerking it is and its merits as a page-turner. Hmmmm. Didn’t quite live up to the hype for me. Well-written and original? In places, yes. Gripping? No.

Death narrates his involvement in the life of Liesel Meminger, a young girl who is sent across Germany to the safety of a foster family. She has a hard time settling into her new home and community as most children would. The war begins and, for the first half of the book, its effects are fairly innocuous.

Things however, take a turn for the more sinister when a Jew arrives on their doorstep seeking sanctuary. They give it, and thus begins what I thought was the most interesting part of the book. Max Vandenburg hides out in the cellar and, during that time, the bond between him and Liesel is cemented through their shared love of literature and story-making and their fear of what might be. I won’t tell you how this ends.

I will tell you though, what I thought of the book overall. While I enjoyed many parts of it and appreciated that Zusak is obviously an accomplished writer, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that he wanted to make sure I was aware of this. I got this impression both from style and content.

Style-wise, he can’t really sit still. Doffing the hat to magic-realism here and there, his often casual assumption of context leads to clipped sentences you have to piece together in your head. There are illustrated, hand-written stories. There’s a unique section with each part beginning with the throw of a dice. There are little asides from other books and a dictionary. There’s the narration of death which works at times (e.g. the end) but for most of the novel is neither here nor there. It’s all very busy, busy. Perhaps this is necessary when appealing to young-adults these days. If so, my apologies.

But then there’s content. It’s almost as if Zusak had about four novels in his head and didn’t have the patience to write four books, choosing instead to cram them all into 550 or so pages. There’s the story I’ve just mentioned which is a depiction of a coming-of-age and what is in effect first love. There’s the story of a girl’s love of literature and the worlds this opens up for her. There’s the psychological terror of defying a totalitarian regime. On top of this, you’ve got a depiction of WW2 Germany which is just too detailed to really form a backdrop and yet too hastily sketched to be part of the foreground either. Anti-Semitism., Hitler Youth, Nazism’s effect on the common wo/man, society’s struggle to come to terms with pending defeat, families dealing with loss, the mass bombing of civilians, the guilt of survival, etc. etc. All of this clutters what could otherwise have been a very touching and carefully crafted love story between Liesel and Max.

This book is worth a read, nonetheless, but I disagree strongly with USA Today who said that it deserves a place on the shelf with The Diary of Anne Frank. That’s a travesty. Frank’s diary is a league of its own. It’s not just the circumstances under which it was written and eventually published that make the comparison tragic, it’s in the writing too. Unlike Zusak, Frank did not have to cram her work full of literary devices to keep the reader occupied. There’s a simplicity in Frank’s writing which seems foreign to Zusak. In the end, the overblown prose and content of The Book Thief left me unmoved. It made me long for writers who are skilled not only in what they produce but also in what they choose to leave out as well so that the remainder is exquisitely crafted. If he does possesses this ability, Zusak doesn’t demonstrate it here. ( )
1 vote arukiyomi | Jun 19, 2012 |
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Showing 1-25 of 1431 (next | show all)
The Book Thief is one of those books thats sticks with you long after you read the last page. It had me crying of sadness and of happiness. Death being the narrator gives this book a uniqueness that no other book has. Nothing is sugarcoated and although this book takes awhile to draw you in it's worth the read. The characters are well written and well developed with just enough facts about history tied into the story to make it a worthwhile read. ( )
  aliceinoblivion | Jun 27, 2015 |
The Book Theif I did not like the first 50 pages of this book. It annoyed me that the narrator talked in this weird 'third-person/dictionary' way. Looking back I guess I was more so annoyed that Hitler's people were practically forcing a mother to give up her children.I guess I'm giving [b:The Book Thief|19063|The Book Thief|Markus Zusak|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1390053681s/19063.jpg|878368] five stars instead of my original four might be because of how strongly I thought I was going to hate this book (after reading the first fifty or so pages). I became drawn in and learned to love Liesel, Papa, Mama, Rudy, and Max. The one thing that I would love to know is who Liesel married. I personally think that it's Max, I know there is a fourteen year age gap, but from watching their relationship I guess I'm kind of hoping that they find true happiness in each other. ( )
  momma182 | Jun 23, 2015 |
I did not like the first 50 pages of this book. It annoyed me that the narrator talked in this weird 'third-person/dictionary' way. Looking back I guess I was more so annoyed that Hitler's people were practically forcing a mother to give up her children.

I guess I'm giving [b:The Book Thief|19063|The Book Thief|Markus Zusak|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1390053681s/19063.jpg|878368] five stars instead of my original four might be because of how strongly I thought I was going to hate this book (after reading the first fifty or so pages). I became drawn in and learned to love Liesel, Papa, Mama, Rudy, and Max.

The one thing that I would love to know is who Liesel married. I personally think that it's Max, I know there is a fourteen year age gap, but from watching their relationship I guess I'm kind of hoping that they find true happiness in each other. ( )
  momma182 | Jun 23, 2015 |
I love this book!!!!! It was great, the characters were really strong. It made me feel like I was actually there in some way. Once I got into the book, I couldn't put it down!!!! ( )
  harleyqgrayson02 | Jun 22, 2015 |
I read enough books on Hitler era Germany that somehow this one did nt quite strike me as real. For instance, would anyone have dared to heckle a line of passing authorities then, as someone does in the last third of the book? All the way through I couldn t get the point and kept turning pages waiting for it to dawn on me. Young adult fiction should be easier to "get" should nt it? I made it all the way through but was no wiser. My wife liked it and got it but for me it drew a blank. Why, don t know. ( )
  ted_newell | Jun 20, 2015 |
Amazon link
Goodreads link

I borrowed this book from the library a few weeks ago; and loved every bit of it! I found the book so fascinating and magical, and felt such a connection to the characters.

The narration from the point of view of death was so unique, and fitted the book perfectly; it also made it that bit more captivating and intricate. How the story followed liesels development and life was what made it a whole lot better; her character was perfectly crafted along side rudy and her mum and dad .

I give this book 5 gold stars and 100% recommend you to give this book a chance; bevause it might just shock you. (And maybe fetch a few tears, but I won't tell anyone ;))

Happy reading :-) ( )
  inspiredbyabook | Jun 16, 2015 |
Head on over to my blog, Rachael Reads, to read the review for The Book Thief!

https://rachaelsbookshelf.wordpress.com/2015/05/30/the-book-thief-by-markus-zusak/ ( )
  Rachael_Reads | Jun 12, 2015 |
Young Liesel Meminger is taken on a faster child by poor parents in 1939 Germany. Leisel is enamored with books, reading, stories and her playmate, Rudy. The tensions of WWII and the Third Reich intrude particularly with the arrival of a stranger who places the entire family in danger. This is a YA novel that wasn't written 'down' to a YA level. Enjoyable read to youth and adults alike. There is a mystical aspect to the book and an intrusive narrator which I didn't care for, but I'm not one for magical realism. ( )
  michigantrumpet | Jun 8, 2015 |
The story :
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

My review :
Personally, I had some trouble keeping up with the plot at the beginning of the book. At the end, I still did not feel close to this book. I was not drawn into the story at all. This is me, I think that this is a good book, with positive insights, but the writing style does not suit me. I have appreciated several things during my reading, that I share with you:

- Lisiel, the little girl who is the book thief, takes risks to steal books for others, I think it is a noble cause,
- She does not know how to read at the beginning, but she learns with her foster father, and she manages to understand the power of words. Those of us that like reading pretty much understand that. ( )
  CorinneT | Jun 2, 2015 |
a wonderful book, full of hope and despair. loved the characters. main actor is a young girl, her foster parents and her best friend. the story is told by death ( )
  michaelbartley | May 31, 2015 |
This is a really enjoyable novel. It is quite creative in making Death the story's narrator. I was concerned about this at first, but it is very well done. Liesel is the central character, and it is wonderful to follow her for 4 years as she is taken in by a family near Munich in 1939. There is a bit of language for very young readers (barnyard, not obscene). ( )
  jimmoz | May 30, 2015 |
I first read this in 2010, and suggested it to relatives for our first Family Book Club read. As my birthday gift, my honey is reading it to me at bedtime, so we get to enjoy it together. ( )
  MCHBurke | May 28, 2015 |
The narrator on the audiobook is English character actor Allan Corduner, who did a fantastic job with the voices! The book included German words and they were always translated the first time they were used.
  rdg301library | May 24, 2015 |
I really liked this book -- it was very well written, and it shows positive ways the characters overcame very difficult challenges. I can see why some people consider this book to be a classic. The characters are developed well and are very interesting, and the unusual choice of Death for the narrator also made a nice twist. The story itself is also wonderful. However, I was bothered by how much inappropriate language and profanity was in the book. I probably would have given it five stars if it had not been for the language. ( )
  AdrienneJS | May 18, 2015 |
This would be a good book to use when talking about the Holocaust. I think students would like this book because of the unusual narrator. ( )
  Kate_Schulte078 | May 4, 2015 |
Summary:Death narrates the story of Liesel who is young and already suffering from the death of her brother and the separation from her mother. She goes to live with another family but is ridiculed in school when she can not read. Her new family teachers her how to read and for a while she is happy. Then, the Nazis begin to have a greater presence and Liesel realizes that Hitler is an evil man and is responsible for so much suffering. Liesel tries to help those who are being persecuted against, while staying educated and keeping her own story alive.

Personal connection: This book is all about the Holocaust so naturally I feel a personally connection to it because I am Jewish. I actually cried while reading, as this was a very well written and emotional book.

Class use: Use this book to teach students about WWII and more specifically, the Holocaust. ( )
  allisonpollack | Apr 30, 2015 |
This one really deserves 5 stars. One of my all-time favorites! ( )
  KR_Patterson | Apr 28, 2015 |
I could not find an entry into empathy with the characters. Felt too sterile.
1 vote 2wonderY | Apr 21, 2015 |
There are some books that are so special and thought-provoking you just want to keep them a secret, as little treats to think about and ponder over. If I had to describe The Book Thief in one word, it would be MAGICAL, but alongside magical, there is also tender, compassionate, kind-hearted, forgiving and authentic, and above all wise.

It reminds me of To Kill a Mockingbird with its children wise beyond their years and their moral compass that will make most adults embarrassed. The essence of children like Scout and Liesel is their immediacy - they do not wait, they do not accept excuses and they do not believe lies. They are also determined and fearless and it is truly fascinating to see them grow.

Markus Zusak is a very powerful storyteller who was able to breathe life into Death itself, creating an intriguing and thought-provoking narrator.

This story is slow-paced in the best possible way. The narrator gives away all the major events very early in the book, which makes it obvious that the point is not the ending, but the journey - emotions stirred, intelligent thoughts provoked, heartstrings tugged. ( )
1 vote v_allery | Apr 19, 2015 |
Probably the most incredible book I have read! ( )
  DF | Apr 8, 2015 |
What an outstanding book! You came to feel for the characters quickly, and get drawn into the story line. Humanity in a horrible timeframe. Not a story you will soon forget! ( )
1 vote bearlyr | Apr 7, 2015 |
I just finished this book. It is in my top 3 of books read in 2013, so far. I loved the way the author wrote this; extremely creative. I plan to read it again in the future,but on Audible next time. There is a lot to digest and ponder in the book and there is a lot of symbolism and themes. The author is a creative genius and I want to check out his other books. I did not find it too long or wordy, as some of my friends did; I thought it was just right! But I do wish I knew what happened to Max after the war. I'd love to read a sequel! ( )
1 vote sandra.k.heinzman | Apr 2, 2015 |
I just finished this book. It is in my top 3 of books read in 2013, so far. I loved the way the author wrote this; extremely creative. I plan to read it again in the future,but on Audible next time. There is a lot to digest and ponder in the book and there is a lot of symbolism and themes. The author is a creative genius and I want to check out his other books. I did not find it too long or wordy, as some of my friends did; I thought it was just right! But I do wish I knew what happened to Max after the war. I'd love to read a sequel! ( )
  sandra.k.heinzman | Apr 2, 2015 |
I just finished this book. It is in my top 3 of books read in 2013, so far. I loved the way the author wrote this; extremely creative. I plan to read it again in the future,but on Audible next time. There is a lot to digest and ponder in the book and there is a lot of symbolism and themes. The author is a creative genius and I want to check out his other books. I did not find it too long or wordy, as some of my friends did; I thought it was just right! But I do wish I knew what happened to Max after the war. I'd love to read a sequel! ( )
  sandra.k.heinzman | Apr 2, 2015 |
I just finished this book. It is in my top 3 of books read in 2013, so far. I loved the way the author wrote this; extremely creative. I plan to read it again in the future,but on Audible next time. There is a lot to digest and ponder in the book and there is a lot of symbolism and themes. The author is a creative genius and I want to check out his other books. I did not find it too long or wordy, as some of my friends did; I thought it was just right! But I do wish I knew what happened to Max after the war. I'd love to read a sequel! ( )
  sandra.k.heinzman | Apr 2, 2015 |
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