viernes, 19 de abril de 2013

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

© Markus Zusak
Summary (from the back cover):

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery....

Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.

With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

I didn’t know what to expect from this book, because it looked strange when I flipped through the pages. I mean, there’s a comic. And I didn’t know much about the plot either, since I bought it in a whim just because of the title.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I realized the story was about a girl that lived the hell of World War II in Germany. I am quite biased because I eagerly enjoy these books, and The Book Thief was not an exception. (Coming back to this paragraph: doesn’t it sound as if I was a sadistic nazi or something? Enjoy and pleasantly are not the best word choices, I guess.)

It all starts when the narrator, Death, picks up a book that contains the story of a girl, Liesel Meminger, the book thief, who was separated from her family and confronted to Death. Around the same time, she starts working to become a thief. She is later received in a foster home, and brought up by the Hubermanns, where she founds love and understanding. After some humiliating episodes, Hans Hubermann, her step-father, teaches her how to read, painting words on the wall of their basement and reading with her every night. Around this time, too, Liesel meets Rudy Steiner, her best friend and her future first love. But he wouldn’t ever know it.

One day, Max, a Jew, hides in the same basement Liesel learnt to read. And then everything rushes in a calm way. Here Liesel, as a character, begins being real. She feels, she thinks, she acts. I can’t do a proper review, and I won’t, but it was here when I plunged completely into the story. So much that, at the end, I almost cried. I think Zusak did a wonderful work concerning the emotional growth of his characters. It was believable. I specially love the bound between Ilsa and Liesel, and Hans’ story.

Also, Zusak’s experimental writing was great, the book turned out a piece of art. In a visual way, I mean. And I celebrate his choice of Death as the narrator. At first it may be strange and unnatural, but by the end I was used to it. I even thanked the introduction for the last part -Death does one in each part-, because I was already warned when everything happened (and still…)

Highly recommendable, in my opinion.

Note: this is and old review. They will appear here from time to time. I read The Book Thief in May, 2008, and I still haven't forgotten the characters. I actually cried at the end.

Rating: 5/5 - I loved this book and will make everyone around me read it.

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