Friday, March 15, 2013

The Book Thief

By Marcus Zusak

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery…

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel 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.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

“I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be se ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”

That is my consensus as well. This book was uncomfortable and strange, but beautiful and meaningful. It is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl in Nazi Germany who comes to hate Hitler, and has a Jewish man hiding in her basement. She is poor and almost always hungry, though not as much as her best friend Rudy, who has four brothers and sisters. She is tired of “everyone” (meaning Hitler) taking things away from her, so she decides to take something back. The words. The words that she hates and loves in the end. This book is more than just a story really, it’s art and poetry and humanity and depravity. Like any book about the atrocities of Nazi Germany, it has its horror, but it shows life from the perspective of a brave girl who has lost all she knew and tries to rise from the ashes in the midst of hatred and war. Zusak’s writing is gorgeous and haunting. And, what is more, narrated, not by Liesel, but by Death. Every part of this book is fantastic, telling, and remarkable. I was upset by the amount of swearing (a lot in German, but always translated) and a scene of nudity. It was difficult for me to read, but thanks to a YA class I had to, and I’m glad. I can say that I will most likely never read this in its entirety again, but there are parts that I will gladly go back to; specifically Max, the Jewish fist-fighter’s words. This book should be handled with care when giving it to young people, because it is upsetting at times and has mature content. I would wait until they are at least 15-16, preferably a little later. Again, content-wise there is a lot of language, nudity, death, murder, suicide, war, etc. It’s not for just anybody.

With that said, I give it a 4.8 out of 5- because of its ugly glory.

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