151 of 163 people found the following review helpful
The Word Shaker,
This review is from: The Book Thief (Hardcover)
THE BOOK THIEF is a beautiful and carefully worded story, following four years in the life of young Liesel Meminger, a poor German girl who finds herself separated from her six-year-old brother (who dies) and her mother and father (taken away by the Nazi's for being a communist), and fostered to Rosa and Hans Hubermann.
Arriving at the Hubermann's, nine-years-old and already burdened with great loss, Liesel forges a deep bond with her Papa, Hans - a man with a many-roomed heart - who sits with her at night when her nightmares force her awake with screams. It is during these nights that Hans teaches her to read, and they begin with the first book she ever "stole": The Grave-Diggers Handbook, a book that fell out of the pocket of a fourteen-year-old grave digger who dug the grave for her brother. Like a kitten who finds comfort at the teat of a sow after losing its mother, Liesel begins to find comfort in words.
The story is narrated by no less a personage than Death, although this Death is sans hooded-skull and scythe. Indeed, we learn little more about Death than he is not what we perceive him to be in our Halloween imitations, and very good at his job. Given the setting for this story, we are guaranteed of the chance to evaluate Death's job performance.
Zusak writes with a deft, poetic hand, his descriptions unconventional and mesmerizing. Rosa Hubermann is "a small wardrobe with a coat hung over it". A woman's mouth has teeth that elbow each other for room. A boy: "His tie is a pendulum, long dead in its clock." These images jump from the page and give us a clearer picture of what we're seeing than if Zusak had spent hours describing the tiniest detail of Rosa Hubermann's body.
Along the way, Liesel shares her interest in words, and in no place is that felt more potently than in her relationship with Max Vandenburg, a Jew who her parents hide in their basement. Max arrives nearly dead, and the much younger Liesel finds herself captivated by him. When the cold in the basement pushes Max to the brink of death, they move him to Liesel's room for (I believe) eight days, where Liesel brings him small mementos and reads to him while he fights for life (and once against Death itself!). In turn, Max writes for her - and these books-within-a-book are more touching and meaningful, more full of love and hope while not betraying the slightest hint of over-dramatization, than anything I've come across in years. Indeed, if this story had been only about Liesel's relationship with Max, it would have been an enormous success. It may also have been more widely read - I suspect that the length of the book and the immediacy present in Max's story but not as equally present in other sections, put some people off.
Before I read the book, I looked at the negative reviews (of which there are four). One review commented that the book felt like "work". Reading Hawthorne can be work, too, but I always feel the better for having read him.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 4, 2008 12:18:19 AM PST
Scott Hannigan says:
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 4, 2008 10:40:37 PM PST
Jonathan Appleseed says:
I'm sorry too - as I so enjoyed your review of The Unconsoled.
Posted on Jan 1, 2009 10:02:59 AM PST
It's a beautiful book.
Posted on Jan 3, 2009 3:17:26 PM PST
Great review! I love this book so much, it's one of my favorites.
Posted on Sep 13, 2009 6:26:14 PM PDT
Book Maven says:
Your review was so well thought out, and also spot on! It was a pleasure to read and I wholeheartedly agree with all that you said.
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