The Book Thief || Markus Zusak || Historical Fiction || 560 pages || Black Swan || 4.36 on Goodreads
Set in World War II, Leisel Meminger is a nine year old girl when she’s introduced to her new foster family. Although her life at Himmel Street has a rough start, with the help of her accordion-playing Papa, Leisel soon finds comfort in books – something she cannot help but steal. Featuring: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.
This book has definitely been on my reading list for too long. I kept seeing it in libraries, almost picking it up, remembering the size of my TBR pile back home and then walking away. I have yet to see a single criticism of the story and continue to hear people raving about it, be it in person or on social media. There’s no denying that The Book Thief is a favourite among readers. And rightly so.
I have to first mention how brave Markus Zusak is, along with every other author that has set their work in Narzi Germany. I’ve found that many authors stay away from historical settings like these because, for many people, they are sensitive topics and they cannot be used flippantly for the risk of later accusations that they’re only using the setting for the dramatic effect and/or not using enough research to show full comprehension of the circumstances the characters are under.
But not this author. The writer respects the time period and character’s situations without suppressing the horror, anxiety and trepidation that the characters felt to make it seem unrealistic. Not only is his shows the effort of research in this novel but is able to use to for ironically (but that’s another topic for another day).
Markus Zusak’s writing style is something that I have to commend. Never have I read a books so beautifully written. The Book Thief is filled with lyrical writing, making you pause for a moment, just to turn the words over in your mind. Our characters may live in Narzi Germany, but the metaphors used hit the modern day reader, shattering the time barrier.
The thing about settings is that in most cases, they can be grouped. What I mean by that? Take any American State from any book and compare it to a different one from a different book. There are differences, of course, but what’s the difference, really? Half the time, it could also be applied to European countries – the beautiful towns, the rolling hills, the gorgeous beaches.
Take out the Narzi out of the equation. Take out the war and the time period. Would you still know that Germany was the place of the novel? Of course you would. The use of the native language makes sure of that. Personally, this is one of my favourite ways to reinforce the sense of setting. The language is such an important part of the story, it’s hard to imagine the book without these quirks that make the whole experience of reading so complete.
STAND OUT CHARACTERS
- Death – perhaps an unusual pick but I couldn’t help myself. Choosing Death as the narrator of this tale was something that was either going to work really well or wreck the story to pieces. Thankfully, it was the former. This is a character that has been introduced to me in a new light, with a personality – a PERSONALITY – that surprised me and made me think differently about the whole process of dying and war.
- Hans (Papa) – I haven’t read about such a incredible father figure in a while and his character was so refreshing to read about. His approach towards his foster daughter was so loving and heart-warming to read about, I found myself wishing for a Hans Hubermann myself.
- Leisel – this is the character I believe, after a lot of thought, I related the most to. Her hunger for stories and determination to learn made me connect to her character more than I thought I would. What is more, even as a young girl she can stand her own and I always admire female characters that are about to do that.
RATING: [5/5] – An absolute treasure and an experience I won’t forget. Definitely in my Top 5 favourites.
RECOMMEND TO: Everyone. I’d say you’d need to be at least about 13 to appreciate it fully but especially pick it up if you are a passionate reader yourself and/or have an interest in history.