Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak
ISBN: 9780375842207
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The name of the book - The Book Thief - is one that appeals to both the book lover and the observer of human beings. And the book itself also delivers on both these counts!

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, is set in Germany during World War II. It was at the point in history when Hitler was at the height of power. The story is told from the point of view of Death – apt since it was a busy time for him, giving him the advantage of many perspectives and a broad overview of the life and times. Beautifully written, this book is worth a read.

Synopsis: The protagonist is 8 year old Liesel, the book thief. She starts her book stealing career with the unlikely The Gravediggers Handbook. This book serves as a link with her past – her brother and mother and also the means by which she learns to read.

Liesel is left in foster care with the Hubermanns, since her mother can no longer look after her. Liesel’s foster mother is a rough-around-the edges woman who does not know how to show that she cares. Although she constantly abuses Liesel, she does grow to love her foster daughter.

Her foster father teaches her to read, comforts her when she has nightmares, plays the accordion to entertain her, and is her companion and champion in many ways. He is forced to become a member of the Party to protect himself and his family, but he has definite anti-Nazi views. While living with them, Liesel continues stealing books and devouring them.

Liesel’s best friend is Rudy, who wants to be Jesse Owens – he is her companion in all her adventures and thieving forays. Into this, enters Max Vandenburg, a young Jewish man, whom the Hubermanns hide in their basement. Max and Liesel become very good friends.

Liesel’s interest in books and reading is also what helps the community band together and survive during some life-threatening situations.

Not all is easy and fun, of course, and tragedy does hit close to home for Liesel and her family

In spite of the the horrific nature of the subject matter (Nazi camps, atrocities against Jews, war and bloodshed), there is a child-like innocence and openness about this book that made me fall in love with it. The characters, starting with Death are caricatures, but believable and very likable all the same.

And when books are treasured possessions that must be obtained against all odds, that does give the story an undeniable charm. That is perhaps the main attraction of The Book Thief, that wins it accolades from both the young and the adult alike.

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Abhiroop Banerjee said...

'The Book Thief' is an immediately attractive title, as the reviewer says. Story sounds interesting too. Thank you for the review.

November 2, 2010 at 1:07 PM
Kaddu said...

I personally want to get my hands on the Immortals of Meluha

November 2, 2010 at 1:39 PM
stargazerpuj said...

@abhiroop - it's a beautiful story and is beautifully written as well. Highly recommended.

November 2, 2010 at 1:56 PM
stargazerpuj said...

@kaddu - I'm now waiting for the next book in the Meluha series!

November 2, 2010 at 1:57 PM

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