Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, July 10, 2009

"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak-a wonderful account of a reading life

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This is a wonderful book. It has won a host of prizes and been praised in the print media and in numerous book blogs. It is classified as a young adult book but please do not be put off by this. It is written in a way that will for sure appeal to age 10 or so up readers. Over all the vocabulary and sentence structure are not difficult. You will learn a few new German words along the way but that is ok. The production quality of the book is great, easy to read with at times changing type face. There is even a book within a book.

"The Book Thief" shows us a lot about the reading life, how a love and obsession with reading effects the main Character Leisel and those around her. There is an old saying about deep books-"The book reads you at the same time you read it". The narrator of the book is Death. This is a daring conceit pulled off perfectly. I even came to Like Death and felt in sympathy with him at times. The book is told in a time and place of great evil. You know it is there, you cant forget it but it does not get in the way. Leisel gets her first book, "The Grave Digger's Handbook" by stealing it, hence the book title. Leisel and her step father bond from reading the books she steals. One of the seemingly very unsympathetic characters in the book is the Mayor's wife. Not wanting to add any spoilers, Leisel and the Mayor's wife end up bonding over books in a very unexpected way. We see Leisel begin to see the humanity in other people through her reading of the books she steals. As you would guess, some very sad things occur in this book but some wonderful things also.

Least we think the effects of the reading life are all wonderful we can see in "The Book Thief" that it is not. One can be into the reading life-seeing life via the prism of the effect of the books we read on us by reading 1000s of books or by reading one book as the supreme clue to all things. In the world of "The Book Thief" for far too many people that meant "Mein Kampf", not flat out evil people but people who might have read only one book in their life are guided by it. Even if they cant read it, they carry it around and pretend to read it. So there maybe another idea at work here, maybe the book thief is really Mein Kampf and the millions of lives stolen by the ideas in it, lives of those loved the book as much or more than anyone else. Maybe reading 100s of books stops the power of one book.

Mel u


sumthinblue said...

Hi there! I reviewed The Book Thief and a few other books with a similar theme here:

Harvee said...

I like your review. It gave me a good idea of what the book is about, as I had been wondering about the title. Thanks for the review.

Suko said...

Mel, I've finished The Book Thief and will review it soon.

In your review, you tell us important things about the book and the reading life without any spoilers. "We see Leisel begin to see the humanity in other people through her reading of the books she steals." Great line. What you say and suggest about Mein Kampf illustrates the power of the printed word, for good and for evil.

Thanks for your excellent review!

Mel u said...

Suko-I look forward to your review-thanks for your kind words

Mark David said...

Great review Mel. I've been thinking about this book for some time now and I guess you've just convinced me to add it in my TBR pile. Thanks! :)

Anna said...

We've posted your review on War Through the Generations.

Booklover Book Reviews said...

Excellent review! I've added a link to your review in my Aussie Author in Focus - Markus Zusak post at this link:

Mel u said...

Booklover-thanks so much for adding me-I also have reviews posted on two other Zusak works-do you know if he is working on a new book now?

Mel u said...

Ok thanks to Booklover I now know what Zusak is working on now

quote from Zusak

What are you working on now?
I'm writing a book called Bridge of Clay - about a boy building a bridge and wanting it to be perfect. He wants to achieve greatness with this bridge, and the question is whether it will survive when the river floods. That's all I can say about it for now - not out of secrecy, but you just don't know what direction a book is going to take, no matter how well you've planned.