October 15, 2006
The Book Thief
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Young Adult Fiction
Finished on 10/9/06
Rating: A+ (10/10 Superb!)
Wow. Where do I begin?
This was simply the best book I’ve read all year. It may very well be the best book I have ever read. I will even venture to say it was better than To Kill A Mockingbird (one of my absolute favorite books). It was better than The Kite Runner. It was better than The Sparrow… and Atonement. Well, you get the idea.
I don’t know if I’ve ever felt such emotion from the printed word. It moved me beyond description. Every single page (and quite possibly every sentence) was a gem. I’ve been sitting here, thumbing through the book, re-reading highlighted passages and entire chapters. There are so many quotes I could share in this review, but I think they’re best read in the context of the story.
"Death" narrates the book and tells us of how he came to know the book thief. While a bit unconventional for a narrator, he is eloquent and, ironically, an ultimately benevolent and compassionate soul. I came to care as much for him as I did Liesel, Rosa, Hans, Max, and Rudy, each of whom is so distinctly drawn that I was left with a sense of deep love and tenderness for their individual roles in this story.
The Book Thief is the tale of a young girl, living with her new foster parents in Germany at the beginning of World War II. It’s a story about a Jewish man in hiding. And it’s story about German citizens refusing to follow along like sheep, standing their ground and showing love and compassion toward their fellow human beings.
This is a love story. Love of a family. Love of a stranger. Love of a playmate. Love of reading and books.
It’s a story about courage.
And it’s a story about death.
The Book Thief is an extremely emotional and draining narrative (how can anything about the Holocaust not be depressing?). I sobbed as the last pages drew closer. It's as moving as Schindler's List and The Pianist. But... I think it's worth the tears. It was just so damned good. I can’t remember the last time I was so affected by a book.
The Book Thief is classified as a Young Adult novel, but I believe it crosses over to contemporary fiction quite well. The young protagonist (Liesel) is reminiscent of Scout (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Griff (An Unfinished Life) and I doubt I’ll ever forget her or her story. The dialogue is marvelous and the pacing is consistently steady, with just enough tension to keep the pages turning (and not as predictable as I thought!). I wonder if this will ever be taught in high school English classes. It should be; it’s so powerful and, I would think, suitable for that age group. (It maybe even be good for junior high school students, although perhaps they're too young to really get much out of it.)
This is definitely one to read again, slowly savoring the lyrical prose now that the final outcome has been revealed. Unless something else knocks my socks off (The Thirteenth Tale, perhaps?), I’ve found my #1 read for 2006. Absolutely phenomenal and achingly beautiful.