December 7, 2013

Book review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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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. 

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

When I chose The Book Thief as the final book in the Authors A to Z reading challenge, I thought I'd be finishing the challenge on a high note, given the great reviews of the book I saw. However, a story of an adopted girl's life in World War II Germany is not normally the type that I can get into, and I feared I was going to be disappointed like I was with The Cave Man. In the end, the book was somewhere in between.

Let me get the negative comments out of the way first. The Book Thief was too long. There were parts of the story where I started to skim because I was getting bored. Given the genre, I expected that, but I did it less often than I thought I would.

I still gave the book 4 stars instead of a lower rating because of the wonderful writing. More than once, I re-read a passage because Markus Zuzak's use of words was remarkably poetic yet appropriate and I wanted to learn how he did it. I felt like an unworthy apprentice watching a master at work.

Having Death narrate the story was also a stroke of genius. Not only was it an original point of view, but it offered a perspective on death that both soothed the horrors in the book and at the same time heightened my emotional responses to them. If that seems contradictory, it's because it should be, but the author is so good he still pulls it off.

I understand why so many people raved about The Book Thief. If it fell into one of the genres that I'm a fan of, I would undoubtedly give it 5 stars. However, given that the subject matter would have put me to sleep in the hands of a lesser writer, I applaud Mr. Zuzak for his work.

I read this book as part of the Authors A to Z reading challenge. This marks the end of the challenge!

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