Friday, February 20, 2009

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I went to a book club at my new library on Tuesday night. They've been meeting for over ten years! I hadn't quite finished the book but was able to participate in the discussion anyway. I finished the book Wednesday night, understanding even more of the conversation at the book club. I think it even helped me enjoy it more.

The book we read was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I had picked this up a few months ago to read but coudn't get into it. Attending the new book club (and meeting people!) was my motivation to try again. I'm glad I did!

The story is narrated by Death. Death is neither good nor evil, it just is. Death normally doesn't pay attention to the living - trying to focus on the souls gathered and the colors they provide. The setting is Germany leading up to and including World War II. Thus, Death is quite busy. But Death has three encounters with Liesel Meminger, the Book Thief, during that time frame.

Liesel lives with her foster family. Her brother dies on the train during the trip to the foster family. At his funeral she picks up a book that falls from the grave digger's pocket. Death witnesses this theft. The thing is, Liesel can't read. Death continues her story of how Liesel learns to read, to love words, to love people, living a very hard life in Nazi Germany. Throw in a Jewish man hiding in the basement, the war, an accordian-playing foster father and it's quite a story.

Author Markus Zusak has written other books that are all categorized as young adult fiction. The Book Thief is also categorized young adult in the United States. While I think teens would definitely enjoy and learn from this story, I think the young adult designation may do the book a bit of a disservice. Some people just discount all young adult books in general - not a good choice, imo, but true nonetheless. And those folks are definitely going to miss out on a very good book by it being classified as young adult.

One warning I have for the book - the beginning is confusing. At least it was for me. I think that's why the first time I picked it up I didn't get very far. It's difficult at first to understand how Death talks, to know what it all means. I'm telling you to push through it. It will get better and you will get to read a unique book that will keep you thinking. And you will definitly enjoy it!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars


Melissa said...

I really need to move this up my TBR. I hear such great things about it, and it's been sitting on my shelf forever.

Jo-Jo said...

I haven't read this one yet but I am hoping to read it soon. I'm glad the book club went well for you!

bermudaonion said...

I'm so impressed with you attending a book club in your new home already.

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

I liked this book, too, but in a weird way. I think I had just heard all the hype and was expecting something different. It was good, but it didn't blow me away, you know?

Shana said...

Wow - that was quick finding a new group. Good for you, Michele. Thanks for the warning about the beginning. I really want to read this one. It's always nice to know pushing through is worth the time and effort.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I don't have this book yet, but it's on my wish list for 2009.

I'm so glad you went to the book group and it was a good experience for you ... what are they reading next?

We've moved a fair bit, and it helps to jump right in and get involved in local activities.

She is Too Fond of Books

Red lady-Bonnie said...

This was an amazing and powerful book. I read it a few years ago and last year again with my book club. It's very unique and well written. That's so great that you've found a book club already.

thewrittenword said...

I tried getting into this book once before, but didn't get very far. Maybe I need to try it again. - Stephanie

Shelley said...

I definitely takes a while to get into the rhythm of this book, but once you do, it's so worth it! I'm always so sad when people give up. Great review!