Thursday, April 24, 2014

Book Review: The Book Thief by Mark Zusak

The Book Thief by Mark Zusak

Standalone novel
Publisher: Picador
Release Date: 1st September 2005
Tagged under: 2014 read, 2014 favourites, favourites, historical, literary, 5
Pages: 584
Buy at: Amazon, The Book Depository

The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller...

It is 1939. Nazi Germany.
The country is holding its breath.
Death has never been busier,
and will become busier still.

By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up an object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, and it is her first act of book thievery. 
So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burning, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found. 
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down.

Book Review [Spoiler Free]

Having heard so many glowing review from fellow book bloggers, booktubers and just book lovers in general, I knew going into this book that this will be amazing. I guess, in a way, that's what made me hesitant to start this novel. After all, what if this book doesn't live up to all the hype?

Let me reassure you, this one does. It totally does. It even exceeds all my expectations.

With Death as its narrator, you know The Book Thief is going to be quite an unusual book. And it is. Nothing is told in chronological order. There is a heavy sense of foreshadowing of what is to come. And it is a story set in World War II - yet it's not about all the action and drama of the battles (though there is some elements of that) nor is it about the struggles of the Jewish (though there is some elements of that too). Instead, it is a tale of a young German girl growing up with a love of books and it is through her eyes, with the voice of Death, that you the reader experiences the daily lives that German citizens lived through.

If you go into this book expecting plenty of action and drama, you will be sadly disappointed. Yet at the same time, there is a lot more to the book than the daily lives of the residents of Himmel Street. Several strands of stories are woven together into a bigger tale and there are many spots where you have all the pieces of the puzzle but it takes a further couple of chapters before you see the full picture.

Another highlight of this book is its language. A quick glance through the reviews on Goodreads shows that most of them have listed some amazing quotes from this book. There are so many simple yet profound statements dotted throughout the book that leave you with a sense of wonderment as if you have suddenly realized - of course, why did I think of that? I wish I had kept track of all of my favourite quotes on my first read-through but I know I'll soon return to this book with plenty of post-it notes for a re-read. The following one still haunts me -

[On the topic of Jews on their death march to another concentration camp]
The suffering faces of depleted men and women reached across to them, pleading not so much for help - they were beyond that - but for an explanation. Just something to subdue this confusion.

Overall: 5/5

This is an amazing book, definitely one of this year's favourites and it has even earned itself a spot on my all-time favourites shelf. Had I read it in one go, I definitely would have been moved to tears. Unfortunately, due to work, I read it in fragments and had time in between to absorb some of the shock. Even then, there were a couple of moments where I came close to tears. I'll definitely be heading back for a re-read soon and putting a lot of post-it notes in to mark my favourite spots.

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