Friday, 20 April 2012

review: The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak
Random House Children's Books, March 14 2006
historical young adult

Death narrates the story of Liesel Meminger, who, on the way to her first foster home, steals a book from the fresh graveside of her brother. She arrives on Rosa and Hans Hubermann's doorstep in Nazi Germany in a time when justice is scarce and ideas are suppressed. It's a time when stealing books is risky, and hiding a Jew is even riskier... but it may be those very same books that save Liesel's life.
The cover:

I actually like the font's cliché scratchiness and the plain author name font, and for sure the image is relevant, but it's much too unclear to send a strong message about the novel. Look at all the sepia tones; the brown might give off the old-book vibe, but it also makes it difficult to tell what the heck the picture's supposed to portray.

The book:

(*gulp* I can't believe I'm attempting to review this book.)

This story isn't like other Nazi Germany or Holocaust narratives. This is the type of story in which you can't dissect the plot from the characters, the themes from the message, just because it's far too complex and powerful of a story, a true-blue story to do so.

Liesel is a real, genuine girl. We see her vulnerable; we smirk at her feisty temper; we watch her grow and learn what equality means in the times. The ambitious expanse of time Markus Zusak covers -- three or four years, I think -- allows time for defining snapshots of Liesel's life, and the family of characters constantly growing around her.

Rudy. Ah, Rudy. He's best summed up in this quote by our narrator, Death: “He does something to me, that boy. Every time. It’s his only detriment. He steps on my heart. He makes me cry.” He's Liesel's best friend: "How about a kiss, saumensch?" And he's such an integral part of her growth that he'll make you cry, too. Almost guaranteed.

Max, the hidden Jew. His past with Walter Krugler is touching; his exchanges with Lieseel are the most gorgeous pieces of humanity. really. truly.
“Often I wish this would all be over, Liesel, but then somehow you do something like walk down the basement steps with a snowman in your hands.”
 Hans Hubermann, him and his silver eyes and his generosity with cigarettes and words and paint. His history with Erik Vandenburg in the first World War, and the proceeding affinity with the accordion are heart-aching. And Rosa, made of cardboard with her wire hair. She and her watschens. <3

Then there's Death. The beautiful imagery in his narration, though seemingly inadvertent, makes him a surprising, alluring fellow. Paired with Zusak's life-slaying beauteous prose... we as readers are no match. Case in point: the quotes on Goodreads. READ THEM.

This book has over 500 pages, and yet it's a page-turner. The Book Thief is a steady ramp, getting winched higher with every part. And the themes interwoven: how reading saves lives, how kindness is rewarded, how not even the most selfless person can save themselves from another person and their bomb.

So, so lovely. ...And that's as coherent as I'll get. *sweats* Sorry, guys. This is really an inadequate review. But look out for an entire post of quotes to come. :)

Rating: 5 out of 5