Monday, 5 December 2011

The book thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief
The setting is Germany 1939, and the narrator is Death. That was the reason I didn't read the book sooner. Didn't matter the many reviews singing its praises and telling there was humour in it. So, why did I read it? A read-along with Jen from Cuidado com o Dálmata and p7 from Bookeater/Booklover.

And yes, it's set during World War II, and in no way the author sugar-coated any of it. There is Death and deaths aplenty, like expected. And like all the reviews seemed to point to, it was a really good book.

The voice in which Death (and here I was expecting Terry Pratchett's DEATH) tells the story is rather unique. A mixture of satirical and resigned acceptance of the human nature. I really loved the way Death described the colour of the sky, how it changes – I think I'll never look at the sky quite in the same way.

Death also loves spoilers, and starts this book by telling the three moments she meets with Liesel, the star of this story. The first time, and this is when the story-proper begins, Liesel is 9, and she just lost her brother when they were on their way to Molching to be adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Hubermann. Liesel has her first encounter with Death, but also her first moment of thievery, for she is The Book Thief.

And so begin the adventures of Liesel in Himmel Street. Her new Mama, Rosa, is a source of new vocabulary, specially in terms of insults. Papa Hans is a wonderful man that eases this little girl into her new life, with his accordion, and late night vigils. And then there is Rudy, who dreams he is Jesse Owens and tries time and time again to win a kiss from Liesel. But there are more characters, of course. Late additions include the mayor's wife, who helps the Book Thief have access to books, in more ways than one; and Max, the Jewish fist-fighter, who comes collecting an old promise, and brightens Liesel's life. The characters are amazing, but I have a special fondness for Rudy, Hans and Max. They help Liesel, each in their own way, and each of them has their own strengths.

But let's not forget this is set in World War II. I'm not fond of that period of history, and I usually don't like literature about it. There are exceptions, of course (Everything is Illuminated is one of them, but probably because it focuses so little on WWII), and this book just joined the club. I really liked that we had a view of German families, not Jewish, and not exactly wealthy. And how some, fitting the superior race profile, didn't really care for Nazi politics.

The writing style was another thing that I also liked. It was concise (some would say choppy), but in a few words the author managed to write beautiful and so truthful sentences. I also loved the little asides, that presented the facts, or definitions, needed to continue with the story, without really breaking its flow.

I enjoyed the book a lot, a good book, I kept thinking throughout the first 9 parts of it. But it was the 10th that did it. It's tragic and sad, and for once I was glad of Death's spoilers, I could ease my heart a bit, getting ready for what was to come. Yet it caught me by surprise, and oh, how my heart ached with Liesel's. Fear not, there is a bit of an happy ending. And speaking of endings, this is a book that ends beautifully – with Death saying: “I am haunted by humans.”

Jen's Review

p7's Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Other Reviews: Estante de Livros | The Broke and Bookish

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