The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
Published: 14 March 2006
Alfred A. Knopf, Paperback, 552 pages
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.
Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who 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.
In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
I’m going to start off by saying although The Book Thief wasn’t really my cup of tea, it was a beautifully written book. The narration and characters were incredibly artful and original, unlike anything I’ve come across before. That said, I had not been as engrossed in it as I would’ve hoped.
Told from Death’s point of view, The Book Thief was set in Nazi Germany and revolved around Liesel Meminger who – you guessed it! – stole books. If you’re expecting an action-packed book filled with war and gore, you are sorely mistaken. Markus Zusak gave readers an alternate and somewhat more peaceful outlook on the period of Hitler’s dictatorship.
I started off thinking The Book Thief would be insanely intense and choke-full of heartbreaking scenes resulting in buckets full of tears. However, it ended up more subdued, simple and had subtly moving scenes instead of the grand harrowing ones I expected. Unfortunately, it ruined my reading experience a little.
Nonetheless, I loved how simple, everyday motions in life seemed to carry more meaning through the portrayal in the book. Moreover, all the relationships between characters were gorgeously well-developed and poignant. But if I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be the one between Liesel & Rudy. They both had such tremendous growth throughout the book (especially Rudy), it’s hard not to get swept-up in admiration.
On a more upsetting note, I thought the ending was abhorrent. Yes, it was heartrending and I did cry over it but overall, I found it too predictable. It was explosive in a way that felt like Markus Zusak was trying too hard to get readers in an emotional wreck or he had no better way to finish the novel. Simply put, that ending was completely disappointing, taking off a star from what could’ve been a 5-star book.
Despite that, I’m definitely catching the movie adaptation when it comes out on 4th February 2014, here in Singapore. Mostly because I’m extremely curious about how Death’s POV would be played out in it.