- Published: 2007
- Number of pages: 177 pages
- Format: PDF
- File Size: 4.24 MB
- Authors: Markus Zusak
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • ONE OF TIME MAGAZINE’S 100 BEST YA BOOKS OF ALL TIMEThe extraordinary, beloved novel about the ability of books to feed the soul even in the darkest of times.When Death has a story to tell, you listen. 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. “The kind of book that can be life-changing.” —The New York Times “Deserves a place on the same shelf with The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.” —USA TodayDON’T MISS BRIDGE OF CLAY, MARKUS ZUSAK’S FIRST NOVEL SINCE THE BOOK THIEF.
Reviews from Amazon users which were colected at the time this book was published on the website:
⭐I avoided this book for a long time, because I knew it was narrated by Death, and that sounded like a depressingly morbid proposition to me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Zusak’s rendering of Death is one of the most likable narrators it has ever been my pleasure to encounter. In THE BOOK THIEF, Death is no black-hooded figure wielding a vicious scythe, he (it?) is a thoroughly decent chap. While he might affect a professional distance from the human beings with whom he comes into contact, the truth is that he is not immune to emotion. He tries to maintain a healthy lack of interest in what he calls “… the contradictory human being. So much good, so much evil. Just add water.” He is pithy, sarcastic, and ironic at the expense of humans, attempting to caricature them to save his own sanity. But once in a very long while, a special person will break through Death’s defenses and focus his attention on the curious creatures whose souls he escorts, sooner or later, from this mortal coil. One such special person is a little German girl named Liesel Meminger.Death first encounters Liesel when her little brother dies on a train journey on which the children’s mother has taken them to deliver them to their new foster parents. Liesel thus loses her brother as well as her mother, but after her brother’s funeral, she finds something half-buried in the snow – a gravedigger’s handbook. Not really knowing why, she steals the book and takes it with her to her new foster home. When she first opens it, a little bit of everyday magic occurs: “Amplified by the still of night, the book opened – a gust of wind.” This begins a tangled web whose common thread is the redemptive power of the written word. You who are reading this, are you not a book lover like Liesel, like me? And if so, have you never been saved by books, like Liesel, like me? Then be kind to yourself, make Liesel’s acquaintance, read THE BOOK THIEF.Many other reviews have recounted THE BOOK THIEF’s general storyline, so I will only say, briefly, that it is the story of a little girl growing up in Hitler’s Germany during the Second World War, cared for by her foster parents, soft-hearted Hans Hubermann and his gruff but ultimately kind wife, Rosa. It is the story of Liesel’s friendships with Rudy, the boy next door, and with Max, the young Jewish man hiding in the Hubermanns’ basement. It is the story of the books Liesel steals – from graveyards, from Nazi book burnings, from the library of the mayor’s wife – and the comfort they bring to Liesel and, occasionally, to her friends and neighbors. THE BOOK THIEF covers many important themes, most notably death in all its forms – from dead brothers to dead sons to dead letters – as well as the struggle for survival, survivors’ guilt, secrets and lies, sanity and madness.The content of THE BOOK THIEF’s plot makes it a profoundly moving tale, and if anyone manages to make it to the end of the book without at least some spontaneous moistening of the eyes, they should immediately check themselves for a pulse. But THE BOOK THIEF is more than just a profoundly moving tale, it is an extraordinary work of twenty-first century art. What is it that tips the balance? What makes THE BOOK THIEF not just a great book but a masterpiece? It is everything that the book does differently. It is the narrator, it is the language, it is even the layout. But above all, it is the very different perspectives it offers of Hitler’s Germany. And if this all sounds very serious, it’s not – except for when it is. What sets THE BOOK THIEF apart is its playfulness … And in the end, what turns it into a masterpiece is the juxtaposition of this playfulness against events of the utmost solemnity.As THE BOOK THIEF’s narrator, Death is, as I have said, unique in the true sense of the word, and in the best sense of the word. The reader’s first encounter with his sense of humor elicits first jaw-dropping astonishment and then a growing sense of delicious wonder that eventually settles into an eager camaraderie. Early in the book, I found myself completely disarmed by such offhand but, to put it mildly, droll sentences as: “A bathrobe answered the door.” As mentioned, even the layout plays a major role in the uniqueness of this book. The most important information throughout the book, whether it be the truth about the nature of Death as a supernatural being, the choices Liesel faces at crucial points in the story, or the meanings of derogatory German epithets, is presented in bold-type, center-aligned, compact, omniscient form (virtually dot points without the dots), which frees the rest of the narrative up to skip along and relate only the most poignant or most whimsical or most humorous events.As I have suggested, the most important thing about THE BOOK THIEF is its unusual perspectives. By and large, we are used to reading stories from a human adult perspective. What makes THE BOOK THIEF initially so unsettling and then so enchanting is that this point of view is never offered. Instead, the story is told mostly from the non-human perspective of Death, who also takes into account the child’s perspective of the main protagonist, Liesel. Liesel is, after all, the special human child who managed to break through the narrator’s emotional barriers and inspire him to want to tell her story. So it is only fitting that much of the book is turned over to the perspective of a child’s wisdom. The plot of THE BOOK THIEF is, in fact, quite reminiscent of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. It is told, more or less, from a child’s perspective; it involves a close friendship with the kid next door; Liesel is a plucky fist fighter like Scout; treasures are left for Liesel in a specific place (an open window); Liesel’s “papa” fights a righteous but hopeless fight for a man condemned by the prejudice of the era; and Liesel is even made to read to an elderly neighbor. And just as Jean-Louise Finch gave us a child’s-eye view of the unjust trial of a black man in America’s Deep South in the 1930s, Liesel Meminger gives us a child’s-eye view of Nazi Germany in the Second World War. But don’t mistake a “child’s-eye view” for a childish view – Liesel is even more canny and worldly than Scout is. Certainly, she reminds us that children have their own concerns, desires, failures, and triumphs, no matter what their political surroundings, so even at the height of wartime atrocities, when everything goes right for Liesel, “The day had been a great one, and Nazi Germany was a wondrous place.” But at the same time, she knows full well what her beloved foster parents and her friend Max, the Jew hiding in their basement, are up against, and she knows: “You hide a Jew. You pay. Somehow or other, you must.”As well as making way for the story of a wise child named Liesel Meminger, the chunks of information scattered throughout THE BOOK THIEF are basically the narrator’s way of saying: “I know what you want to know and are expecting to hear, so here it is. And now that we’ve got that out of the way, I can tell the story as I see it.” And in making way for this story as Death sees it, we are given not just an excellent, moving plot but something literally extraordinary. One of the perks of being an immortal being, for example, is that you have a much more elastic sense of time, and Death uses this to great effect in telling Liesel’s story. The constant stopping and starting of the story in the beginning is unsettling, but in a way, it matches how unsettled and fragmented Liesel is. As the story progresses and focuses, the narrative style settles and intensifies, too. In what we might see as Death’s most audacious narrative act, but which he treats with calm nonchalance, he reveals, well before the event, when one of the story’s central characters will die. While he says he realizes that readers may feel like he’s spoiled the ending, that’s not the important part, it’s everything that happens in between that matters. Yes, the book comes complete with its own spoilers! But it is a sign of the author’s brilliance that rather than, as the term suggests, spoiling the story, these revelations actually make it so very much more poignant.Markus Zusak has done something exceptional with THE BOOK THIEF, something that has justly earned him accolades from one end of the world to the other, from critics and ordinary readers, from teenagers and octogenarians. In using such previously under-utilized and unusual narrative perspectives, he has allowed himself the scope to really play with language, with narrative, and with story. And in creating such a unique narrator, he has been able to share with us whole new concepts of life and death. Yes, Death displays a razor-sharp wit, a finely honed sense of irony, and an always-surprising sense of humor, but in the end, it is his moments of stunning solemnity that I will never forget. As Liesel is watching a group of Jews being force-marched along the road to Dachau, Death quietly mentions: “They watched the Jews come down the road … many of them would die. They would each greet me like their last true friend, with bones like smoke and their souls trailing behind.” And when Death can no longer evade the question of what he really thinks of human beings, he says simply: “… I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both. Still, they have one thing I envy. Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die.” I wonder if anyone will disagree with me when I say that writing like that is only found in a masterpiece.
⭐”The Book Thief ” is one of the best novels I have read. Truly! Author Markus Zusak’s storyline is both sad and wonderful, as it deals with Germany during WWII and the Holocaust. His memorable characters have tremendous depth, and the plot is extremely original. However, what makes this book so extraordinary is the author’s writing, which, at times, is more poetry than prose. I frequently found myself reading passages of the elegantly written narrative aloud.Appropriately for the times, Death is our narrator and a major character. Death, the “gatherer of souls,” writes of himself, “I do not carry a sickle or scythe. I only wear a hooded black robe when it’s cold. And I don’t have those skull-like facial features you seem to enjoy pinning on me from a distance. You want to know what I really look like? I’ll help you out. Find yourself a mirror while I continue.” In the Prologue, Death states, “Here is a small fact: you are going to die. Does that worry you? I urge you – don’t be afraid. I’m nothing if not fair.” The figure describes himself as amiable, even affable, but warns, “don’t ask me to be nice. ‘Nice’ has nothing to do with me.'”When the novel begins, Death is gearing up for mass production. It is 1939 and WWII has just begun. By 1945 the entire world will be at war. And it is Death who comments on man’s inhumanity to mad, almost without emotion, in as objective a manner as possible. This inhumanity will cause it/him to work 24/7 in various places in the world at once. That’s what I call multi-tasking.Nine year-old Liesel Meminger is our protagonist, “the book thief,” although when we meet her, she is unschooled and cannot read very well. Liesel, her little brother Werner, and their mother are on a train to Munich. All three are skinny and pale, with sores on their lips. It is on the train that Death comes to claim young Werner’s soul. Liesel and her mother despair. The boy is buried near the city, and one of the gravediggers, an apprentice, drops a black book as he walks away in the freezing winter weather. Liesel picks up the book, without calling out to notify the gravedigger of his loss. The book is titled, in silver letters, “The Gravedigger’s Handbook.” It is the first book she steals. So much has been taken from her, the grieving child feels like she settles part of the score when she commits the theft. In Munich the girl’s mother bids her good-bye and turns her over to a foster care woman. The mother disappears, never to be seen again.Liesel and the woman make their way to a small town, Molching, on the outskirts of Munich, close to the Dachau death camp. They stop at a small house on Himmel Street, where her new foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, await the little girl. Hans is a kind and loving man who quickly takes to Liesel and visa versa. Rosa is also basically kind, although she puts up a front as a shrewish loudmouth. She is a laundress by trade and Hans is a house painter who loves to play the accordion. He is not a member of the Nazi Party. When he realizes he is losing customers because of his lack of enthusiasm for Hitler and the Nazis, he tries to join but his papers are on permanent hold. Their two children are grown and live away from home.Liesel has terrible nightmares and occasionally wets the bed. Hans, hearing her late night screams, sits with her and comforts her, sometimes until dawn. Occasionally he plays the accordion for her until Rosa yells at him to “shut up!” The empathetic, kindly man and the traumatized little girl form a close bond and Hans begins to teach Liesel to read, especially as she is fascinated by words. She believes that words have great power, after all, Hitler didn’t need guns to persuade the German people to follow him and to hate Jews. He used words.When she begins school and the teacher realizes that the girl can’t read, she is placed in a class with younger children. Most humiliating! It is during one of Liesel’s frequent nightmares, that Hans begins to teach her to read. Since the Hubers have no books of their own, Hans uses Liesel’s “The Gravedigger’s Handbook.” as a teaching tool. Then another book, a copy of “Mein Kampf,” is acquired, one of the few available books which have not been burned. And yet another book, “The Shoulder Shrug.” which Liesel snatches from a pile of burning books, is added to her collection. “Germans loved to burn things. Shops, synagogues, Reichstags, houses, personal items, books and of course, people.”Eventually, Liesel acclimates to her new home and makes friends, especially with Rudy, the boy next door and her biggest fan. She never overcomes her nightmares, however, nor does she ever forget her mother and brother. It is at this time when she is forced to join Hitler Youth.Then Max Vandenberg, a German Jew in hiding, comes to ask Hans to fulfill a promise he made to his father, a comrade in arms who saved Hans’ life during WWI. A Jew seeking refuge…what to do? Hans, an honorable man, feels obligated to keep his promise, even though it would mean death for Rosa and himself if Max were discovered in their home. Liesel is sworn to secrecy. The Hubers take the man in and set up living quarters for him in the basement. Max becomes part of the family and forms a close friendship with Liesel. She becomes his eyes and ears to the outside world. He eventually writes a book for her, “The Standover Man” – a simple, illustrated and haunting book about what it is like to be born Jewish in Hitler’s Germany.Life goes on. Liesel learns to read and steals more books – fourteen in all. She and her friends adventure. Germany declares war on Russia. Death’s work increases, especially on the eastern front and in the concentration camps. He/it feels overwhelmed by the souls to collect from the camps, gas chambers, battlefields, and causalities from air-raid bombings. Max begins to do crossword puzzles in the old newspapers Liesel occasionally finds for him. Rosa’s and Han’s workload diminishes significantly. Times are tough, rationing is strict, andpeople don’t have money to send out their laundry or to have their houses painted. And, of course, Hans carries the stigma of not belonging to the Party. I don’t want to include any spoilers, so I will stop my summary here.This is a powerful novel that kept me riveted throughout. As I wrote above, I sometimes stopped to read parts of the prose aloud. There is humor here also. One needs comic relief when reading a novel about such a heinous period in mankind’s history.Markus Zusak’s parents grew up in Nazi Germany and Austria. He frequently thought of writing about the things his parents had seen during the war. He says he thought about the “importance of words in that time, and what they were able to make people believe and do.”The novel’s last words belong to Death: “A LAST NOTE FROM YOUR NARRATOR: I am haunted by humans.”JANA
⭐I did like the relationship dynamic of the story. Notably that of Liesel and Papa, Liesel and Rudy, Liesel and Max. There are some moving moments in the book, a good use of irony and an unusual narrative. The ending is good and somehow very plausible However, I have to say I found the storyline altogether slow and meandering, the plot thin and for me there was never any sense of drama, tension or change of pace. The author’s use of metaphor is at times over the top, for example, the room tasted of sugar and a thousand pages!? There are some books in life that you want to pick up and read again. For me this isn’t one of them
⭐don’t know how many times I have picked up this book from a bookstore or library shelf, only to replace it. Shamefully, I believe it was the trailer for the upcoming film that led me to open it to the first page and read the first few sentences. I immediately decided that I absolutely must take it home with me at once for further, intense devouring.I am not a fan of war books as a sort of general rule; and yet there have been war related novels which have come along and proved the exception. This book, while set in Nazi Germany, is unlike any other World War II book in existence. First of all, the narrator is none other than Death himself. Such a fantastical host provides a unique introduction to the characters of the book and their individual plights. Zusak has created a cast of palpably deep individuals, rich unto their depths, and cleverly juxtaposed them with a wryly observant, mythological presence. I must state that this makes for a truly magnificant combination.Some characters will stay with me forever; like distant friends viewed through the foggy lens of memory. Liesel and her dear foster father, Hans, are two of these extremely special, fictional creations.As a pacifist, I hold in high esteem those who dare to defy crimes against humanity; often at extreme risk to themselves. There were many “Hans Hubermanns” during the war; people that aided Jews and refused to keep irrational prejudices alive in their hearts. Zusak has really given life and breath to Hans. He is the embodiment of a “good neighbor”. He would make an excellent dinner guest, but not because of lofty conversation. Hans is steadfast, and quite critical to Liesel’s development of character.As for Liesel, I found myself instantly aligned with someone who could take such joy from books. Even before she knew how to read, Liesel fell in love with reading. Liesel may have been unable to escape the war and its shocking atrocities, but she took her escape and her comfort from the books that she collected. Liesel’s story feels so real it makes me wonder at Zusak’s inspiration for her. As with all underdogs, the reader cannot help but yearn for Liesel’s survival. More than that, however, I loved being able to treasure every one of her new books with her. I rejoiced in her turn to writing, and I cried beside her more than once. She was intriguing enough to stir the curious interests of the infamous Reaper; and that fanciful conception actually serves to balance an otherwise painfully human construction. We want realism, but we respond to brief reprieves of levity in equal measure.
⭐This is going to be short because I seem to be lacking words for how much I loved this book.In fact, saying I ‘loved’ it almost seems wrong because reading this novel was so impactful and such an experience that… that I don’t have the proper words.This is the story of a girl, Liesel, set in Nazi Germany. She’s a book thief. And the story is narrated by Death. That’s all you need to know. I, personally, was sold when I heard about the narrator. Didn’t even need to know anything else.This is a beautifully written novel about the life of a young girl, the life of people, during war. And it really hits you, the amount of loss caused by war. And for what? Power? Some misconception? It seems such a waste of so many lives, simply because of one man’s crusade and a nation of people at his disposal, whether it be by fear or manipulation. The book brings you closer to something that you usually recount only distantly. And it does a wonderful job of it.This book was amazing. I love the character, the story, the narrator and everything it had to show and tell. This is one novel that I will not soon forget and I very much think that you should read it.
⭐This is such a moving book, very emotional and powerful, you get so invested in the characters and story. It gives an interesting insight into how life for an average German family was affected by the second world war. Everyone should read this
⭐I had not heard of this book until I heard the review of it on Kermode and Mayo. I was intrigued by the premise of a lady giving up her two children and one dying on the way to the adopted family. That really drew me in.I found the first few pages a bit odd due to the fact that I hadn’t clicked that it was being narrated by death. Once that happened I fell in love with the book. The descriptions given by death of the atrocities of war are amazing. The one about the souls escaping the gas chamber to sit on the roof with death himself really stuck with me.i highly recommend giving it a go
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