Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Published: 2005 Pages: 550
Audio Time: 13 hr, 56 min
I’m kind of funny about recommending books to others; with the exception of my immediate family I rarely recommend books and even with family members I pick and choose books carefully. Because reading can be such a singular and personal activity I have to really know a person to recommend a book. But, I make an exception with The Book Thief. It is hands down The book I recommend more than any other—many of my coworkers have read the book, I’ve shoved my copy into so many friends and family members’ hands that my binding is broken and I’ve purchased a hard cover additional copy. True, this book isn’t for everyone (I’ll get to that), but I’ve never had someone I’ve loaned the book to tell me they didn’t like it.
Reason I [re]read it: For work book club—though more than half of us had already read it once before (see above).
Brief Synopsis: Liesel Menimger, a young German girl, is taken to live with foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, on Himmel Street during World War II. Here she learns to cope with her brother’s recent death, her new mama and papa, secrets from her past, and the fast-changing and cruel world around her. Cast of characters include little Liesel, Mama and Papa, Liesel’s friend Rudy, the visitor Max, and a very intrusive narrator. See my original thoughts on The Book Thief for more of a plot summary than I’m willing to give now. ;)
Thoughts in general: Um. I love this book? I love Leisel, and Papa, and Max…oh Max, and Rudy, and even Mama. I love the writing style, and while many find fault with this book for being overwritten or gimmicky, I disagree and say that’s what gives this book its charm. I love the narrator and how wise and creepy and compassionate he is all at the same time. I love how vividly graphic the descriptions are and how all the pieces are packed with emotion. I love how Zusak can make me cry and laugh with the same paragraph and how days, weeks, months, and years after reading the book I’m still thinking about the message put forth in the book. Of course there are few things I don’t love about the book, but what I do love outweighs them all.
How did reading compare to the first time: I worried that having read this book once already I would be bored with the story. And there were times when I felt impatient with some of the side stories. If I have one complaint about this book it’s the length, but I was able to read through those tangential parts more quickly. The narrator doesn’t try to keep too many things about the book a mystery (he says he doesn’t like mysteries at one point), but even with the foretelling I found myself an emotional wreck while re-reading The Book Thief. I went to Starbucks with a friend to read our books at lunch and I finally had to put my book down because I was constantly fighting back tears–at the beginning of the book! I finished the book before work one day, in my car, and I sobbed and sobbed. I’m sure I looked ridiculous, but such is the nature of this one. Needless to say, I found a re-read just as, if not more, effectual the second time around and will continue to revisit this book in the future.
Special note on the audio: Because I was short on time I half read/half listened to The Book Thief. I had started to listen to the audio once before (for funsies) but for some reason put it down and had forgotten about it. The audio is narrated by Allan Corduner and he does a phenomenal job. His voice was the perfect depiction for the role the narrator played within the novel but the accents were also wonderful. He voiced Rosa Hubermann so vividly that it was difficult to not be frightened and enamored with her at he same time. The audio is long, but I would recommend listening if you can’t get your hands on the book. Though, there are some illustrations and other visual elements of the book you would miss out on.
Because I half read/half listened to this book I was able to pay attention to my “reading” with each medium. I was much more emotional while reading the book rather than listening. I really enjoyed listening but it didn’t quite have the same emotional punch as reading the book did. Perhaps this goes back to the Processing Reading discussion I had a few Sundays ago? Nevertheless, the narration is one of the best I’ve listened to thus far.
Some parts that stood out:
“At times, Liesel wondered if she should simply leave the woman alone, but Isla Hermann was too interesting, and hte pull of the books was too strong. Once, words had rendered Liesel useless, but now, when she sat on the floor, with the mayor’s wife at her husband’s desk, she felt an innate sense of power. It happened every time she deciphered a new word or pieced together a sentence.
She was a girl.
In Nazy Germany.
How fitting that she was discovering the power of words” (147).
“She tore a page from the book and ripped it in half.
Then a chapter.
Soon, there was nothing but scraps of words littered between her legs and all around her. The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn’t be any of this. Without words, the Führer was nothing. There would be no limping prisoners, no need for consolation or wordly tricks to make use feel better.
What good were the words?
She said it audibly now, to the orange-lit room. “What good are the words?” (521).
True, not everyone loves this book as much as I do. But I do recommend it. Highly recommend it.
Now that I’ve talked your ear off…
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