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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
The Book Thief
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on November 3, 2013
Because you haven't sopped up enough of that yet in your life, right? The Nazis' political culture was TOTALLY EXTINCT before you were born and has been almost totally irrelevant to "current events" your whole life. Within a few years of 1945 the "Allies" literally EXTERMINATED it, and yet here you are receiving hypnotic trance #583 in "Nazis: the Ultimate Evil." Meanwhile communism and communists are still extant if moribund, even though they did even worse things-- which you hear absolutely nothing about...

Wow, isn't that WEIRD?!?

Why is that, ya think??

Here we are almost 70 years later, all of the people with even immature childhood first-hand recollections of WW-II are rapidly dying off, and yet we're still getting our brains bludgeoned into porridge every year with new installments of rabid screaming hysterical WW-II propaganda, so much so that WW-II still seems like PRESENT HISTORY! Meanwhile Vietnam has been allowed to fade into the dim murky past and become "irrelevant." And Korea?? Didn't they fight that war with chariots and boulders thrown from catapults? It's like we're being artificially suspended in WW-II as our "present."

Wow, isn't that WEIRD?!?

Why is that, ya think??

It's not even that this book is "brilliant" rabid Nazi-bashing propaganda. It isn't. It's pedestrian, formulaic, vulgar, mawkish-sentimental rabid Nazi-bashing propaganda. And yet Zusak is already filthy rich from it. Furthermore, it would be a guaranteed "critical success" and get a movie deal even if it outright sucked because it treats a particular political setting in a particular way...

Wow, isn't that WEIRD?!?

Why is that, ya think??

I'll tell you why: because the JEWS really have conquered the world and are now busy subjecting the rest of us to the occult meaning of captivity. No, they don't "want to" and they're not "trying to," they've DONE IT, and now they're relentlessly hammering you with this sort of brain-rot because this is their taste in what you *WILL* believe, goy untermenschen pigk-dogk. This is the grand unifying theory behind any number of "weird" goings on these days. I for one am sick to death of being played like a violin by these, the world's TRUE villains, and will never again lay out so much as a penny for this "privilege."
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on July 22, 2009
For the first half of the book I really tried to like it; for the last half of the book I really tried not to hate it. In the end, I must have been partially successful, because I did read the last fifty pages enthusiastically; though, now I feel robbed.

It isn't so much that the book is bad; it's just that it isn't very good---and it isn't very good for 500 pages. For a long time I struggled to figure out why. None of the usual suspects appeared: the author's politics don't creep into the story, and it isn't preachy; the writing style is simple, direct and clever (Zusak makes copious and effective use of synesthesia, for example); and the narrator of the story, Death, is sympathetic and witty without being trivial.

Then it finally occurred to me.

This book, set in war-torn Nazi Germany, is not peopled by living, breathing, bleeding human beings; instead, Zusak moves his characters like chess pieces. Each one is studied, obedient, and ... lifeless.

First there is "Papa." "Somehow," we're told, "Hans Huberman always knew what to say, when to stay, and when to leave her [the protagonist] be" (265). That's right: totally perfect, totally predictable, and thoroughly unbelievable. Don't get me wrong, you like Papa a lot, just like you like Santa Claus, but you know he isn't real.

Then, since this is a book set during the Holocaust, there is the obligatory Jew-in-the-basement character. He's 24. He's desperate. And when he is alone, what does the young man "fantasize"? Well, the only thing a Jew in a basement could possibly be expected to fantasize about: not family, not lost love, or sex, or even the guilt of such fantasies... No, he dreams about boxing Adolph Hitler in the big ring.

Umm, really? Boxing? Hitler? In the ring? Honestly, you'd have to add warm water and use a mallet to make a character any flatter than that. Is that all we can expect from the mind of a Jewish fugitive --- boxing Hitler?

Finally, for all the to-do about books and the importance of words in the main character, Liesel's, life, we learn little about them beyond their titles. This, despite the fact that she has read them repeatedly!

Devoid of philosophical depth, psychological truth, or literary finesse, the book ultimately has very little to offer, even (I would suggest) to the young adult audience it has been marketed for.
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VINE VOICEon June 12, 2006
Liesel Meminger is a Book Thief, living with a foster family in Germany during World War Two. Torn from everything she's known, her foster father shows her the power of words as the two of them share late night reading sessions of The Grave Digger's Handbook. Her love of books ties her to others, including the mayor's wife and Max, the Jew the family hides in the basement.

My own words escape me as I try to recount the beauty of this book in a short review. Rarely have I read a book as moving, as profound, as this one. Narrated by Death, this story is one that crawls under your skin and reverberates your soul with its images of Nazi Germany, friendship, and loss. The images stirred through Death's telling are so vivid, so wonderful, so tragic. Zusak has a masterful command of language and I was astounded by the way his words brought Liesel and her world to life. We follow Liesel over the years as she learns the true meaning of family through her caring new Papa and her friendships with Max and Rudy, the boy next door who idolizes Jesse Owens.

Just a small list of images that will stay with me forever:

+Liesel reading to the neighbors sitting terrified in a basement waiting for the bombs to fall around them

+A snowball fight in a basement

+Mama arriving at school to "yell" at Liesel

+A boy with candlelit hair standing up to a Nazi Youth Leader

+Death gathering up the souls of children softly

+The story of a Word Shaker

+An accordian player accepting a cigarette as payment

There are not enough words within me to express the beauty of this book. It will move you to laughter and tears, often at the same time. This one is a keeper that I will revisit frequently in the future. It has changed my soul. Highly, highly, highly recommended.
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on March 28, 2009
As a buyer for a bookstore, I read a lot of YA books. I read the "must-read" reviews for this book and it sounded right up my alley, deep, meaningful, thought-provoking.
I didn't like it. At all.
So much so that I stopped reading halfway through, something I never do. It simply isn't an engaging read, and I find it very difficult to believe many teens would get past page 3. I suppose I just don't "get" it, and other people might, so I don't want to call it an awful read. But I found the author's writing style ridiculous and totally un-readable. He seemed to think it sounded poetic, but in the end it often didn't make sense. He says things like:
"She nightmared." "His face traveled." "Her voice planed and curled in her mouth." As i say, it sounds poetic, but it's just not good writing. How does using nightmare as a verb make this sentence richer than "she had a nightmare"? I don't even know how a face can travel. If he means "his expression seemed to wander to thoughts of the past," why doesn't he just say it that way?
Just a few nit-picky examples, but I found the whole book to be written like that. As someone who truly does appreciate fine writing when I see it, it makes me mad that people praise The Book Thief so much. Overall, simply not that interesting. It didn't scream out to me "this story needs to be told," like so many other (especially holocaust-era) books do.
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on July 20, 2011
This is a terrible, terrible book. Just really, really awful.

The one thing you have to give Mr. Zusak credit for is divining perfectly the recipe for a bestseller. As far as I can tell, it goes something like this. 1) Pick the biggest, most gut-wrenchingly painful shared tragedy in recent Western history: Nazi Germany. Never mind that World War II fiction has been done to death. 2) Pick the most instantly pitiable character in literary history for your protagonist, in the vein of Cinderella or Oliver Twist or Annie: an orphan. 3) Insert details that any reader will identify with: obsessions with reading, trying to fit in, adolescent struggles. 4) Fill in every cliche you can think of: mean stepmother, hidden Jew in the Holocaust, "complicated" friendship/romance with boy next door. 5) Mask the lack of content with stupidly forced, faux-pretentious language throughout, and end every single chapter with a choppy series of simple sentences meant to inject drama into a book that drags on faaaaar toooooo looooong. This gives the reader the impression that they're reading something they should love, even though it's anything but.

From its overwrought beginning to its sloppily tragic ending, this book trots out just about every hackneyed trick imaginable. Please, read something else.
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on January 27, 2008
This was one of those books I bought purely on hype and a great cover. The actual contents of the book left me not entirely convinced of its merits. Reading the other comments here made me realise it may originally have been intended as a teen read, which would place the style and content in better context.

The story and plot of The Book Thief is essentially as simple as the synopsis on the dust jacket - it's a story about death, a jewish fistfighter, an accordion player and a woman who calls her husband a pig with monotonous regularity.

The strength of the novel isn't really in the plot, but instead in Zukas' descriptive writing. He has a unique flair for metaphor that allows one to appreciate each moment from what feels like a unique vantage point.

The story is also clearly intended to exert a strong emotional tug, but somehow it ended up feeling a bit contrived to me. Perhaps the problem is that several other writers have already explored the period and subject with great sensitivity - the novel 'I am David' comes to mind.

I'm afraid there isn't much else to say about it, the writing is innovative and imaginative but the storyline and subject matter are unfortunately the stuff of cliché.
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on February 4, 2008
I'm writing this review so the other 2 or 3 people out there who didn't like this book will know they are not the only ones. I was a little hesitant about reading this book in the first place ("ANOTHER book about WWII??"), however, friends, relatives, teachers, strangers in the grocery store, etc were all saying it was pretty much the best book they had ever read, so I figured it had to be at least decent.

Unfortunately (Sorry Mom, I still love you!), this was actually one of the least interesting, least engaging books I've read this year. My biggest problem was with the language: I found it to be empty, fruity, and ultra-pretentious. I have a real problem with authors who throw a bunch of meaningless words together and consider themselves to be poetic geniuses. The story itself, a modestly appealing if slightly hackneyed yarn about a little girl who loves to read, would have benefitted from a more straight-forward storytelling approach instead of being obscured with flowery language.

To the people who found this book to be earth-shattering: I'm sorry.

To the people like me who found this book to be off-putting and banal: You may never get back the 2 hours you wasted on this book, but take heart in the fact that you are not alone.
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on February 16, 2006
This is a story told by Death. An interesting point of view perhaps, but as it is set in Germany during World War II, perhaps it is entirely appropriate. It is also a story of a young girl, who in spite of having a life that no one would wish on anyone, still manages to have glimpses of pleasure through many small things, including the few books that she manages to acquire (or shall we say, steal).

It is interesting to see that it appears to be targeted to young adult readers - please don't be put off by this - it is very much an adult story about children who are doing their best to live a normal life in times of unspeakable horror. It would also be a good way to introduce more mature readers to the history of the times. But be warned, it is quite confrontational at times, and considering who the narrator is, very sad.

To add extra punch to the story, it appears that it is the true story of the author's grandmother. When you consider this, you realise how truly resilient we humans are, and how occasionally, and with a bit of luck, we can hold off death for a time.
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on September 11, 2013
It is totally beyond me why this book getting such good reviews. As a German I find the flat stereotypes unbearable. The author inserts German words all the time, probably to make the novel more authentic, however very often his vocabulary is used incorrectly, is misspelled or grammatically wrong. There is profanity from start to end, it is German profanity and maybe the English reader isn't feeling the impact because it is not his native language, but imagine someone writing the f... word all the time and cursing on the lowest social level, that gets old very quickly. The book is filled with typical 3rd Reich, Nazi, Bavarian stereotypes, the writing style wants to be different and extraordinary, but having said everything above, it is flat out boring, insulting and annoying. The story has been told a million times already, so I think don't waste your money and time.
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on October 27, 2006
I was frequently irritated by some of the weird word choice and turns of phrase. I thought certainly it must be a dodgy translation from the German, though Markus Zusak is a second generation Austrian-German living in Australia and it was published first in English. Some examples that got under my skin--

"a gang of tears trudged from her eyes" (very strange image)

"every night, Liesel would nightmare" (never seen this used as a verb)

"the church... its rooftop a study of collaborated tiles" (coordinated)

"As always, they were clapped" (applauded)

"Liesel forgot about her mother and any other problem of which she currently held ownership" (hello, editor!)

`his face tripped over itself" (hunh?)

"he sat down... halving his tallness on the concrete..." (oh, please....)

"the threesome of books poked their noses out"

"pimples were gathered in peer groups on his face"

"the town hall stood like a giant ham-fisted youth, too big for his age" (Say what?)

"his tobacco breath formed a smoky sandhill in front of her face"

"the taste of Christmas needles chimed inside her lungs"

"Frau Hotzapfel sat with wet streams of wire on her face"

For me it wasn't poetic or creative, just irritating and amateur, and the tortured verbage detracted somewhat from the narrative.
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