Jul 21, 2008

More Than Stolen Books

Markus Zusak's The Book Thief is another book that qualifies for the Irresistible Review Challenge. I found this book on The Hidden Side of the Leaf blog and a number of others. Only one more book to go for this challenge.

I want to start off by saying, this was not a book I instantly loved. I had trouble getting into the story for the first 80 pages are so because of the disjointed and disruptive narrator. I now understand the reason for the interruptions, given the narrator's identity, but I still was not overly thrilled with it, particularly when major plot points, like which characters will die, are given away before the story comes up several chapters later.

***Spoiler Alert***

Anna and I discussed how given the fact that the narrator is death and we all know that we are going to die someday, it makes sense that Death would tell the reader beforehand what he knows, even though as humans we have no idea when we are going to die...just that we are. Though this explanation eases my irritation, I still think the narration could have been done differently.

The story begins with a young girl's train ride to Molching. Her brother dies on the train ride and at his funeral, her thievery begins. She steals a gravedigger's manual. This starts her journey of words and reading. Her mother leaves her with foster parents and never returns, despite all of Leisel's hopes. However, she grows to love her foster family in the midst of the Nazi's rise to power. While she is mostly sheltered from the atrocities surrounding her, and joins the Youth Hitler Group, she still remains naive in a way. She believes that humans are genuinely good, even though she and her friend, Rudy Steiner, steal apples and other items from friends, neighbors, and farmers.

She grows up as the war grows stronger and the German armies begin to trudge into Russia and Jews are marched through the streets to concentration camps. It is not until Max Vandenburg arrives on her foster parents' doorstep. The Jew changes her life. While her Papa taught her to read, Vandenburg teaches her to dream, and the mayor's wife teachers her to reach for the stars in spite of the sadness that enters her life.

***End Spoiler Alert***

There is a great deal going on in this book, and I would recommend it to young and adult readers. It's a good work of fiction that takes a look at the German side of the equation present during the Holocaust. The Germans who feared their own government, disagreed with the tactics used, but also agreed that their livelihoods would improve if the Jews were gone. But it also is a story of how these individuals dig into themselves to find the best reaction they can to their given situations. Their humanity in the face of adversity is sometimes troubling, and sometimes admirable. While the book thief, Liesel, is stealing books and words, she is also stealing some of the Fuhrers' thunder...his ability to use words to spur hate and death.

Anyone who also has reviewed this, please send me the link.

Also Reviewed By:


Ana S. said...

I had trouble getting into it at first too, but after the first 100 pages or so I couldn't put it down. Here's my post.

Serena said...

So, it wasn't just me. Thanks for providing me with the link to your post. I couldn't put the book down either once I got through the first 80 pages.

Suey said...

The first time I read it, it took me awhile to "get" it too. It's strange at first. Then I loved it. Then about a year later, I read it again... then I REALLY loved it! Every word.

Here's my review: http://sueysbooks.blogspot.com/2008/01/reveiw-book-thief-by-markus-zusak.html

Serena said...

Suey: I included your review link. I guess we all had similar issues with the narration at the beginning, but overall it was an excellent read.

Jill said...

I've been meaning to read this one for ages, especially after I read Nymeth's review - and now yours! I guess I should bump it up closer to the top of my list! Great review.

Serena said...


I say go for it. It's well worth the read. It's well written and offers a different perspective from other books written about the time period.

Anna said...

It took me awhile to get into it, too, but once I did, I was hooked. You know I like stories that take place during WWII anyway, so that might have helped. I thought it was unique having Death as a narrator, though I agree that at times it was frustrating!

I reviewed this book as part of my "Read in 2007" series of posts. It's number 47 in this post: