Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I loved The Book Thief even more than I expected to after seeing glowing reviews everywhere. I rarely say anything like this, because it's hard to know what will last, but this is a book that I expect to become a classic.

My favorite thing about the novel is that Death is the narrator. He's not a bad guy, Death. And his narration, for me, is what really makes this book unforgettable.

The story is set in Nazi Germany, and the main character is a girl who loves to read, named Liesl. She's placed in a foster home with new parents she grows to love. She's friends with a neighbor boy named Rudy. And, being poor and at first barely literate, her only access to books is through theft. The first book she steals, or really finds on the ground, is The Grave Digger's Handbook, which she finds at her brother's funeral and secrets away. With the help of her foster father, she learns to read. The book is also definitely also a war story, though. As with many war stories, I was really struck by the strength of the human spirit and by the ability of some people to be so deeply good during horrifically bad times.

Zusak's writing is unique and gorgeously poetic, and the structure of the novel is intriguing. I also enjoyed the use of subtle foreshadowing to keep the reader alert and engaged. This book is a Printz honor book (along with many other awards) and is commonly considered a YA novel, but it's more than complex enough to satisfy an adult reader.

You can read an excerpt here, although the format lost something being transferred to a webpage.

You can read an interview with the author here.

Other reviews of this book:

Cross-posted in my blog.

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