Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak




Another very successful title of the last decade that has been mentioned in more than one top ten list. In fact reading one of these lists recently I realised that this was one of only three titles on such a list that I had not read!  Completing this one means that I have now have read and enjoyed all ten titles which were voted as amongst the best of the decade. Lovereading - Books of the Decade 
When I looked on Amazon recently there were already 603 reviews published of which 445 are five star ones. There are a handful of reviews from readers that did not like the novel but they are insignificant when a novel is so popular.

Out of the three books that I needed to read to have read all ten recommendations for the decade it is interesting that two of them were both about the Nazi Germany during WWII, a subject I maybe subconsciously steer away from. The other one was The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas similar in that it also has a child as the main protagonist. I only mention it here as I feel if you read one of these you should read both. I obviously made a mistake by avoiding them for so long.

The Book Thief is written in a truly unusual style, in fact I do not think I have ever come across anything else written in a style quite like this before. Short sections that all link together almost like a diary, but the weirdest thing of all for me was the fact that the story is narrated by Death. One needs to accept that a story told by Death is  almost certainly going to be a tear jerker which it is but it is also very compassionately told. This is not a book to enjoy as such but it is a story that will make you think, I suspect not for the first time about the awful atrocities that were committed in Nazi Germany during the second World War.

The young protagonist is Liesel who is sent to a foster family for her own safety in 1939 when her parents are sent to a concentration camp. Set in a small German town called Molching it is basically the story of her day to day life on Himmel Street plus the other folk that become her friends and neighbours. Liesel steals books to feed her desire to learn to read and write, hence the title!   Work and food are scarce and as the war progresses death is always close in one way or another.

Death's account of Liesels life is thanks to the author full of descriptive imagery which will provide you with strong images of immense cruelty and human misery but also of love and kindness to others.

If you have not already read this, I think I am in the minority in not having done so before now, I recommend you do so. It will stir your emotions but it is for all that an easy quick read. Just make sure you have the tissues ready.

 Illustrations are from within the book.

Markus Zusak was born on 23rd of June 1975 in Australia, the youngest of four children and is the son of an Austrian father and a German mother. It is the stories he heard as a child of Nazi Germany and Jews being marched through the town where his mother lived that gave him inspiration to write The Book Thief.  He now lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and daughter.

Markus Zusak - Wikipedia

Courtesy of TheGuardian | 01 June 2009

The novelist explains why he decided to use death as his narrator and why he's not keen for his publishers to see the way he works.

You may also be interested in the review at The Books Cafe of The Book Thief.


  1. This one made me cry quite alot, it was so sad. Im going to check out that top ten list later when I have a spare moment!

  2. Jessica - Yes it was rather an emotional read wasn't it. Do let me know how many of the titles you have read on the list when you have time, as I would be interested.

  3. I'm so glad you read this one! It's one of my favorites, but it's hard to describe it.

  4. Yes it is, did you think my review made it sound worth reading?

  5. I was given The Book Thief by a friend, a librarian, and I was captivated by it. I have not read The Boy in Striped Pajamas but I did see the movie and it was very times too difficult to watch and I closed my eyes. I am always amazed when reading books set in WWII by the strength of the human spirit to find threads of hope in the midst of such appalling circumstances.

  6. I read both the Book Thief and The Boy in Striped Pyjamas a couple of years ago and loved them both. Unlike you for some reason I'm really drawn to books written about the Second World War - I like a good cry! The Boy in Striped Pyjamas was heart-breaking. I just had a look at the list of 10 books and I've also read 7. I haven't read the Lovely Bones, Chocolat or We Need to Talk about Kevin. I've seen the films of the first two but would really like to read the books too.

  7. Patricia - Welcome and thanks for commenting it is appreciated. Having read the book I am not sure I will be able to face the film. I always prefer to read the books before seeing the films. You are right the human spirit is amazing when in such dire straits.

    Sarah Elizabeth - Maybe that is why I avoided them knowing they would upset me. As for the three on the top ten list that you have not read yet, I would certainly recommend them all to you.

  8. I haven't read this one but it's definitely on my list. Thanks for the review!

  9. Talli - I will look forward to hearing what you think.

  10. My book club read this book a few years ago and it's remainded one of our favorites. I thought the fact that Death was the narrator was a clever and effective writing decision. Thanks for posting the video of the author. I had no idea he was such a young man. Fascinating interview.

  11. Pam - I certainly wish I had got round to reading it much sooner. Delighted you found the video interesting, so did I.

  12. Super-fantastic review of The Book Thief. I also agree that the POV is so incredibly unique! :D I enjoyed watching the video. MZ's inspiration for the story was interesting...and I like his rationale for Death as narrator.

    Thanks for linking up!!!


  13. Thanks Rikki I am delighted you found the review of interest, always a pleasure to link up with you.


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