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on January 23, 2017
I LOVED this book. We started listening to the audio version in the car before I bought the paperback. My son is an audio learner, so we are constantly looking for books to listen to. We had recently listened to another WW2 book told from a kid's perspective. This was recommended to us, but we were warned the content was much more mature than the first book, even though it is also focused on a "child". While that was true, it wasn't a bad thing. I really enjoyed the narrator for the audio book, and I am quite picky. I ended up buying the paperback because I couldn't stand to wait to see what happened since I only listened with my son in the car. I was enjoying it enough to think it was worth the purchase. I'm glad I bought it. It is "heavy" but I did fall in love with the characters and know I'll be revisiting it again and again. One thing that I found unique about this book was that it was told from the view of "death", or maybe a grim reaper...but it is not in any way fantasy. Looking back, I can't imagine it being told from any other perspective and I'm so glad the author seemed to realize that too.
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on November 18, 2014
The Book Thief
This is a beautifully balanced piece of storytelling by a young Australian writer: Marcus Zusak. The book is narrated by death himself. Death is rendered vividly. He is a lonely, haunted being who is drawn to children, who has had a lot of time to contemplate human nature and wonder about it. We are introduced to this narrator in the beginning and he is with us till the very end. It gives away the end and still wants you to keep reading on.
The narrative is easy flowing with glimpses of what is yet to come: sometimes misleading, sometimes all too true. We meet all shades of Germans, from truly committed Nazis to the likes of poor Hans Hubermann who hides a Jew in the basement of his very modest home. I was humbled by the realization that most of us are incapable of doing what noble souls Hans and Rosa do for saving the human race. This is what makes this novel truly remarkable.
The author says he was inspired by two real-life events related to him by his German parents: the bombing of Munich, and a teenage boy offering bread to an emaciated, withered Jew being marched through the streets. Both the boy and Jewish prisoner were whipped by a soldier while hapless crowd looked on! It is also the way in which Zusak combines such terrible events with truly believable characters and the details of everyday life in Nazi Germany. All this made The Book Thief so special for me.
In addition to the protagonist Liesel (the book thief of the title), there are some very important characters in the story. Those who particularly stood out for me are Rudy Steiner, a close friend of Liesel who is obsessed with the black athlete Jesse Owens. Ilsa Hermann, the mayor's wife, who has never recovered from the loss of her own son. Liesel's adoptive parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann and of course Max Vandenburg the Jew decorator whose father had saved Hans’ life during the first world war when they are both German soldiers. The growing relationships between Hubermanns and Liesel and, later, Liesel and Max Vandenburg are central to the plot. Max writes and illustrates a strangely beautiful short story for Liesel over whitewashed pages from a copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf (the original print can still be seen through the paint). The powerful short story and illustrations almost broke my heart.
Hans, who can’t read very well himself, teaches Liesel to read. Liesel is effectively an orphan. She never knew her father. Her mother disappears after delivering her to her new foster parents. Her younger brother died on the train to Molching where the foster parents live. Death first encounters nine-year-old Liesel when her brother dies. It (death) hangs around long enough to watch Liesel steal her first book - The Gravedigger's Handbook, left lying in the snow by her brother's grave. Death has in his possession (I have always considered death as ‘she’) the book Leisel wrote about 1939 to 1943. In a way, they are both book thieves. Liesel steals randomly at first, and later more methodically. But she's never greedy. Death pockets Liesel's notebook after she leaves it, forgotten in her grief, amongst the destruction that was once her street, her home, her mama and papa. Death carries the book with him.
As I went through the book I kept feeling how real Liesel was! She was a child living a child's life. A life that has chores, soccer in the street, stolen pleasures, school fights, sudden passions and a full heart! Around her bombs are dropped, maimed veterans hang themselves, bereaved parents move like ghosts, Gestapo take children away and the dirty skeletons of Jews are paraded through the town.
However, there are a number of things that prevent this book from being all-out depressing. It is very powerful from the beginning but not morbid. A lively humor peeks through the pages. (a comment about German’s loving pigs, the childish chats between Rudi and Liesel). Furthermore, the vivid descriptions as well as the richness of the characters lift your spirits up. In this balanced story, ordinary Germans - those with blond hair and blue eyes are as much at risk of losing their lives, or are being persecuted, as the Jews themselves. It made me cry.
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on October 20, 2013
I just finished reading this book and I wanted to rush here to write down my thoughts but now I realize that there are too many to summarize in a simple book review.

Many have said this about "The Book Thief" but it is truly an endearing story. Throughout the entire book, I kept thinking to myself, how can the same species of human beings be so absolutely dreadfully evil and also be so strong, brave, hopeful, and loving?

The evil side of humanity was shown, obviously, in the power plays of Hitler shown not primarily through a Jew's point of view like a lot of Holocaust/WWII stories but from the point of view of a living-in-poverty German family who were also victimized by Hitler, obviously in a different way but stricken nonetheless.

The hopeful and loving side of humanity was shown not in the obvious ways. But in the way that Liesel and Rudy always stood by each other no matter what even while throwing insults at each other. In the way that Hans embraced a girl as his own daughter without question. In the way that the mayor's wife indirectly gave Liesel her most treasured possessions and, eventually, a safe place to grow up. In the way that a little German girl connected with the Jewish young man hiding in her basement and created a bond of souls that surpassed words (though ironically created by words themselves through books).

And although the subject of this book was very heavy and dark, there were moments that made me laugh. Not because the circumstances were funny, but because of the things the characters would say in such circumstances. For example, after Liesel and Rudy steal a plate of cookies, their most pressing thought is, "What are we going to do with the plate?"

But there are 2 lines in this book that are so profound and will stay with me forever. The first line serves as a wonderful example of how artfully Markus Zusak wrote this story. The book is narrated by death and at one point death says, "It kills me sometimes, how people die." What an interesting and ironic line. Even death itself can be shocked at how people die. I would like to think that if death was a personified being, he really would say something like that.

The second line is the last line of the book. We readers are concluded with death's last note, "I am haunted by humans." As this beautiful, tragic tale comes to an end, I too am haunted by humans--the characters of this story.

Read this book.
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on June 25, 2014
This book made me feel empty in a way that only truly beautifully written books can. When I finished reading the last word on the last page of this book, I felt empty; there is a paradoxical mix of feeling incredibly saddened that the book is over but also completely satisfied because the ending was the best ending you could have ever hoped for and more. Together, those feelings left me feeling empty and breathless. It's amazing that words can be strung together on bound pages can make you feel so strongly, but that's what great books do. And this is, without a doubt, a truly great book.

I won't go over the plot because many reviewers have done so already, but I will tell you this: The Book Thief was one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read in my entire life. Death's point of view is hauntingly sophisticated. This is one of my favorite quotes, "A SMALL PIECE OF TRUTH: I do not carry a sickle or scythe. I only wear a hooded black robe when it's cold. And I don't have those skull-like facial features you seem to enjoy pinning on me from a distance. You want to know what I truly look like? I'll help you out. Find yourself a mirror while I continue.”

There are so many amazing layers to this book. I love the fact that it's a book about a book thief. I love how books are mile markers in her life, and how she herself can barely control the love and hate she feels for the power of words. I love the impact books have had on her life. The love that the characters have for Liesel is truly moving. The love that she has for them is heartbreaking in the most astounding way. This is a fictional book, but it's very much a true and honest look at humanity in its finest moments and its worst moments. It's as if Markus Zusak studied the human soul and was able to articulate its many range of feelings: love, grief, regret, relief, wonder, and everything in between.

This is a book that stays with you long after you are done with it. It took me ages to write this review because I wanted to do the book justice. I will end with another one of my favorite quotes from the book. “I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
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The Book Thief's beauty is in its simplicity. The book is narrated by Death, and he tells us the story of Leisel Meminger a young German girl who at onset of World War II, has already endured some very difficult personal trials. Through The Grim Reaper's narration we follow Leisel's new life on Himmel (German for heaven) Street in the fictional town of Molching. We meet a cast of characters meant to show us what life was like for the average German citizen as the Nazi party hurled the world into war.

The book gets its title from Liesel's taking a book dropped on the ground during a very traumatic moment in her early life. This book is used by her step-father to teach Leisel to read and write. Through these teaching sessions, she develops a strong bond with her step-father, and a love for words and reading and writing and of course, books. Throughout the novel Leisel does what she can to procure new books and she uses them to enrich her life and the lives of her friends and neighbors. The most poignant moments come as Leisel and a houseguest, Max, share their love of reading together, and He creates some books for her. This "guest" is a young Jewish man whom the family takes in and hides at great risk to their own safety.

Through Leisel and her small world we see the Nazi party gain a foothold with nearly every citizen in town. We learn that there are real and personal costs to individuals who disagree with the party. We see what it was like to live with rationing. We watch as a populace does nothing and often even joins in on the harassment of the Jews in their town. Soon they are all gone and we are taught the price that individuals might pay to help a Jewish friend with the Nazi machine at full power.

I say that the beauty of this novel is its simplicity because so many of the insights are delivered through the stories of children and their daily lives. It was somewhat reminiscent of Huck Finn in that regard. Death communicates in simple, short sentences, and the writing is beautifully to the point; poetic.

The Book Thief is a novel that manages to be beautiful despite its subject matter. It is a novel that you will feel more than you will read.
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on May 4, 2012
I was ambivalent about this book regardless of the positive reviews; however, I went ahead and placed a hold on it at my local library.

When I started reading 'The Book Thief' I felt a bit perplexed and felt maybe this book wasn't for me. After the first few pages I decided to put the book away and pick up the reading the following day. Instead of the following day, I continued a few hours later. I am glad I decided to continue reading and not return the book, because, `The Book Thief' is now one of my favorite books. And I have bought it to add to my collection.

I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer so I had to ponder a few times what the writer was trying to relay. In other words, the book will make you stop to think - it's not one of those books where `red' means `red'. You will find lots of similes and metaphors throughout the book.

The story of Liesel's life is beyond captivating and the writer made me feel as though I was actually there during her highs and lows. Liesel is charming, funny, witty and a young girl who's been through loss and abandonment but somehow managed to get beyond her early struggles.

The characters are all alive, with their own peculiar personalities; their different stories of life to tell. The characters are almost palpable and not one of them can be called boring.

The story of Liesel's life is narrated by Death - yes, `death', as in, the Grim Reaper. You'll find Death to be quite a comic, likable and almost human. With a very busy work schedule.

This book brings out various emotions and quite frankly, I cried when I read some aspects of the book. It was a very emotional read, some people may say depressing. However, it was worth reading.
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on February 21, 2013
Markus Suzak has turned out a masterpiece in this story of an orphaned girl, Liesel, whose foster parents do not fit the mold of their antisemitic, Nazified town. The girl's challenges -- the loss of her real parents and her younger brother, her accustoming herself to a new mother who can be off-the-charts loony, a town that will not brook variations from its norms, and her own battle to teach herself to read and write -- make for a page turner. It is not without hope: her relationship with her new "Papa," a man who teaches by example love of one's fellow (even one who is hunted down for being Jewish) is a vital component of the book. The sympatico between Liesel and one of the downtrodden is meaningful and poignant, and even Death becomes a sympathetic character, quite an accomplishment given his job.

Written in the first person from the viewpoint of the Angel of Death, this book is so well-written I ended up with over a hundred underlined passages. There's hardly a page on which either a whole exerpt or a turn of wrenching phrase does not capture the reader.

I'd say that the theme may be a little adult-like for a Young Adult audience, but I may be behind the times. In any case, The Book Thief is unforgettable, and, of the 100+ Young Adult novels I've read in the past six or eight months, head and shoulders above the rest.
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on May 7, 2014
This book is for everyone to read. To learn of Word War II's early beginnings, through the experience of a German family's perspective, helped me to understand more about the "other side". Having the protagonist be a little girl who is searching for life's meaning and belonging too, provided a fresh dimension that never stopped moving me. Reminding me how the world appears to innocent eyes, and shapes a character's growth. And that the narrator of this story was Death itself, kept me glued to the pages. Marcus Zusak's story was written in a format that kept surprising me with it's unique format. Brief listing of the ingredients of each chapter set the stage for the unfolding of what later takes place. A kind of reassuring recipe for what is to come of the tale. Easefully he presents the horrors of war and the daily struggles of each member of a family in their needs to normalize a life which teeters beyond the brink. A brilliant author who has succeeded in painting a new and engaging picture of a history which still affects us all.
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on March 21, 2015
Outstanding and Haunting Story of a young girl in Nazi Germany. I won't discuss the content, only how the book is told from the point of view of Death. I enjoyed watching the author's video here on amazon. I read the book a few years ago and I kept the book. Most fiction books I donate to my library or turn them to a consignment store. As a WWII biographer, I have a comprehensive library of books that I won't give up - this book is one of them. In my travels in Germany, I've listened to many stories of German veterans and their families and friends. If you can even get people to talk that is. I don't insist, but the horror of war still lurks. The horror of destruction of all that one has built - safety in homes - safety in trusting one's police - trusting in one's government - this didn't exist in Nazi Germany. It was Fear, prevalent fear. An incredible book in a story that I'll never forget.
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on November 10, 2015
This is now my most favorite book. I love how the author uses words to describe the surroundings, scenery, emotions with just a few profound words, like poetry, when it takes pages for other authors to say the same thing. I did not see the movie, and I probably won't either. I can't believe that a movie could ever be as good as this book. What an adventure for a child so young. To have been loved by strangers when her world has been taken from her. Death has always been a chilling character, but this one has a circle for a heart. He admired this girl and how she adapted to everything - that which is bad, is also good in her life. I'm glad I bought this book instead of borrowing it from the Kindle Library. I will go back and reread this book. I enjoyed my time with all of these characters and was sad when the story came to an end.
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