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Beg, borrow or steal The Book Thief
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
Member Name: cerys82
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
Advantages: a moving, interesting story
Disadvantages: The viewpoint is a little odd to begin with, but perservere
The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel, a nine year old girl living in Nazi Germany in 1939. She is separated from her family by the premature death of her younger brother and by being fostered to Rosa and Hans Hubermann who live in Molching. At first Liesel is extremely traumatised by the change in situation, missing her family terribly and finding solace in the sporadic theft of books that she comes across, despite the fact that she is unable to read.
They scrape a living by Hans being a painter and decorator and Rosa taking in washing and ironing from local dignatries. Rosa and Liesel's relationship is strained at best, with the older woman being very strict with Liesel. However, Hans and Liesel soon develop a very strong bond with him giving her secret reading lessons during the night.
In time, Liesel also begins to develop friendships with people near her, including Rudy a local troublemaker who idolises Jesse Owens and the wife of the mayor who gives her access to her extensive library
As time progresses the war begins to have a devastating impact on the residents of the town, not least the arrival of a person from Hans' past who changes the Hubermann's and especially Liesel's life but also puts them in mortal danger.
One thing which I haven't mentioned, but adds an extra dimension to this story is that it is in fact narrated by Death, and this is made apparent from the very beginning.
I have to say that I really enjoyed this book and found it really hard to put down. I obviously had a look at the blurb on the back and knew from that that it was going to be something a bit different to normal.
For the first few chapters, where Death introduces itself and explains its nature, ambition and initial relationship with Liesel - I did find it slightly odd and wondered if I would be able to get used to it. However, it is so well written that it becomes easy to settle in to this. It is quite an original concept and one which adds an extra depth to an already dense story but also a real sense of foreboding to the overall proceedings. We know that death is there for a reason, but we are only sometimes, not always sure when it will strike next.
The story is very, very engaging and interesting - running the full gamut of emotions and displaying the far reaching effects of the Second World War on ordinary people in Germany, away from the fighting and politics that was taking place elsewhere.
Alongside the excellent characterisation, it is also noticeable how beautifully some of the relationships between the characters are painted; particularly between Liesel and her foster father and Liesel and another character who emerges halfway through the novel. Some of what was written about these relationships is amongst the most touching prose that I can remember reading for a very long time.
There are also a couple of occasions where the prose is broken up by illustrations with accompanying stories which are wonderfully done and not at all contrived.
In conclusion, if you want an offbeat, touching and ultimately absorbing read then seek out this book.
Summary: A great, unusual novel