Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

"It's just a small story really, about, among other things, a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery."
The Grim Reaper From "The Book Thief"

"The Book Thief" came highly recommended from the wife of a co-worker - I made the selection without really looking into what I was downloading - downloading it at 11pm and then hitting the road for a trial at 5am the next morning. It was a rapid impulse decision that ended up being one of the best books I've read or listened to in the last five years - if not my hands-down favorite.

It wasn't until I was about half way through the story that I realized it was written as young adult/childrens' literature - and had received much acclaim - all well deserved I might add.

The premise of the story (and again no spoilers here - sorry) could be very depressing and morbid - but somehow Markus Zusak tells the plight of a young foster child (Liesel Meminger) living in Nazi Germany with a love for the girl, the characters and the time period. The story is narrated by the grim reaper - even if he doesn't quite use that term himself. Such a premise could easily be dark or contrived - but the story isn't either. It's busy work for the grim reaper during that time period - there is lots of death and lots of sadness...yet on three occasions he crosses paths with the book thief - each time bolstering his faith in a small portion of humanity.  Liesel is turned into foster care when her sick mother can no longer care for her (and her younger brother). Liesel's brother dies on the journey to Munich - at the cemetery Liesel (who cannot read) steals her first book and her journey (and her love of books) begins. In her foster home her kind (but tough) foster parents shape her love of reading and her love of books - books literally (and figuratively) save Liesel over and over again.

The Book Thief is narrated by Allan Corduner - his narration of the Book Thief's story was expertly implemented and all-consuming. With most books I've listened to there are a couple hours of introduction that need to be worked through to get to the meat of the story - not so with "The Book Thief" - which grabs the reader, shakes them and then pulls them along into the story. The war progresses, Hitler savages humanity along the way - and the war unfolds from the perspective of god-fearing German citizens - a vantage point not often depicted in WWII era literature.

The Book Thief  was written by Markus Zusak and narrated by Allan Corduner. The Book Thief was published by Listen Library and was released on September 14th, 2006. The unabridged version of "The Book Thief" runs at 13 hours and 56 minutes.

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