Friday, October 17, 2008

The Book Thief

Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Date Finished: Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Pages: 576

I was told about this book from a friend of mine, Trish, (here) a couple of months ago and after hearing about it decided that it would be a great book to add to my list for the Bang Bang Challenge (which is my first challenge ever!). I have to admit that it took me a couple of chapters to really get into the book. The more I read the more I enjoyed the unique writing style of Markus Zusak. For those of you who are not familiar with this book, I would most definitely recommend it if you are interested in the World War II era, or if you are intrigued by the idea that the narrator of this book is Death!

Death first encounters the book thief when she is 9 years old, when he comes to take her brother on a dreary train platform. The children were being escorted by their mother to a small town in Germany where they would be passed over to Foster parents. Even though he is not there to take her, Death becomes fascinated by the book thief and is there to witness her commit her first act thievery when she picks up a book that fell from the pocket of one of the gravediggers from the cemetary where her brother has just been laid to rest. At this point in her life, Liesel Meminger, cannot yet read the book she has picked up, but wants desperately to know how. This book holds a special place in her heart, because it reminds her of her brother.

Liesel forms a strong bond with her foster dad, who plays the accordian and teachs her to read. There is quite a story behind her dad playing the accordian and it eventually causes some difficulties for her family in the future. Being persued by Rudy, her neighbor, Liesel is always turning down his requests for a kiss when he does something to help her. She grows to be very fond of Rudy, but will he ever get that much anitcipated kiss from his love?? While helping to deliever and pick up laundy for her mother from the townspeople, Liesel develops an interesting relationship with the Mayor's wife. She allows Liesel to eventually come into her home and the first place she takes her is into the library. Liesel automatically assumes that the books are the Mayor's, to which she is later proven wrong.

After yelling at the Mayor's wife after her mother's services are no longer needed, Liesel with the help of Rudy, decide to go back to the Mayor's house and steal a book. The book thief appears several times, but only takes one book at a time. One day, when they ride up, they notice that there is a book propped against the window where they enter, and it happens to be a dictionary. Another time, there is a plate of cookies that has been left in the library, and Liesel suddenly realizes that the Mayor's wife knows she has been entering the library and has left these items for her on purpose. Will she eventually approach the Mayor's wife and thank her, or will she continue to sneak in and out of the window with her newly chosen book?

As the book begins to come to an end, Death gives you some information ahead of time, in his mind to help soften the blow of the information. He is at times very compassionate, espeically when the air raides are happening and he is having to gather several children in his hands. This time period was a very busy time for death and he was often working days on end without a break.

I found Death to be quite commical at times, and really enjoyed hearing his point of view. I love the importance that is placed on words during this book. Especially in a time when words could really impact those around you. As the story progresses, Liesel continues to hear the word "Communist," but every time she asks someone what that means, she get a run-around answer. As she continues to piece together a definition, she realizes that her own mother was one, and asks her foster father if this is the reason she was seperated from her mother. Not wanting to ever lie to her, he shakes his head yes, and another mystery is solved.

I will not give away any spoliers, but I did want to share one of my favorite parts of this book with you. I love the way that the book ends. It is a short sentence by Death that pretty much sums up everything. "I am haunted by humans." (p.550) This sentence continues to give me chills, but I feel that it is a very powerful sentence. I fell in love with the characters in this book and was continuously surprised by Death's reactions and point of view throughout the story. When I first learned that the narrator was going to be Death, I expected a very dreary and heartbreaking book, but I was very happily surprised when I learned that was not going to be the case. If you get a chance to read this book, I would definitely recommend it!

This book was also reviewed by:
Laura, Trish, (if you have one, please let me know!)


michellekae said...

Sounds like a very interesting book. Can't wait to read it. I have a few other on my list before, but it is definately in my TBR pile!

Trish said...

Oh hi Michelle (she's my cousin...isn't that a small world!!).

Kari--I have chills right now from reading your description of the book and your thoughts. It is such a touching story and I'm glad that you liked it (even if it was tough to get into). I think Death makes the perfect narrator for this book--I can't imagine anyone telling the story better than him.