The Book Thief

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US hardcover, 1st edition.

The Book Thief is a novel written by Markus Zusak and first published in Australia in 2005. The book has been quite successful being translated into scores of languages and made into a film.

The book is set in Nazi Germany just as it enters World War II and is narrated by the personification of Death. The story follows a 10-year-old young German girl named Liesel who is adopted by foster parents after her Communist mother gives he up for adoption to save her from being executed by the Nazis. Death recounts the childhood of Liesel who grows up especially poor and unable to read, but has an obsessive love of books. Her foster father teaches her how to read and, and, as she grows, she learns about the atrocities committed by the Nazis around her.

Personal

While looking for a new novel to read, this one caught my eye. I knew I had heard the title of this book, but I didn't know from where, and had no idea what the book was about. After discovering that the audiobook was professionally performed, I decided to listen to it. I finished it on 2022-05-17.

Status

I don't own the book, but I have listened to the audiobook read by Allan Corduner.

Review

Good

  • The book is well-written. There are plenty of moments of intensity, good use of foreshadowing, a lot of poetic word usage, etc.
  • I'm glad Zusak didn't take a common route of presenting the majority of Germans as being average people ignorant to the horrors of the Nazis which often occurs in WWII fiction. Instead, it presents a more accurate picture: there are plenty of jingoistic racist German characters who express unflinching support of Hitler, most go along with the Nazis even if they don't know why, but only a handful risked actually defying the Nazis.
  • I like that the author makes it clear fairly early on who is going to die and doesn't exploit the deaths of his own characters.

Bad

  • Hans's falling out with his Nazi son isn't very meaningful. If more effort had been spent adding backstory to their relationship, the scene could have been stronger. I know the story is centered on Liesel, and she wouldn't know their backstory, but Death's narration often focuses on other people, so it would fit the framing device.
  • I could deal with not having to read the word "saumensch" on every page.
  • By having Death as a character, the book is also forced to accept the idea of eternal souls. This, unfortunately, lessens the atrocities of the Nazis.
  • Although it's stated that Liesel becomes a powerful wordshaker in adulthood, nothing is described about it later. I would have preferred that Zusak went into more detail about how her books helped bring about change for the better.

Ugly

  • Nothing.

Media

Covers

Quotes

  • "The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy that loves you."
  • "Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness."
  • "Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day."
  • "A small but noteworthy note. I've seen so many young men over the years who think they're running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me."
  • "I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that's where they begin. Their great skills is their capacity to escalate."
  • "Of course, I'm being rude. I'm spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it. I have given you two events in advance, because I don't have much interest in building mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It's the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound me. There are many things to think of. There is much story."

Links

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