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Book Review of The Book Thief

January 28th, 2016 No comments

Cover of The Book ThiefDeath has a lot on his plate, especially in the 1940s as Europe erupts into war. And yet, every once in a while, Death gets distracted. One of those distractions is Liesel Meminger, a young girl who lives with foster parents in a small town outside of Munich. Liesel is a strong-willed girl who discovers the beauty and the power of words after her caring foster father, Hans, decides to teach her to read. Liesel is also a thief. Her first stolen treasure is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, snatched from the snow besides her brother’s grave.

As Liesel grows, reads, plays soccer, collects laundry, and avoids kissing her best friend, Rudy, the guns of war begin to erupt all over Germany. A promise Hans made many years ago leads him and Liesel to keep a very dark and dangerous secret, one that could save a life or put theirs in jeopardy.

Author Markus Zusak has woven a rich tapestry of words, images, and social commentary all bundled together into a few years of Liesel’s life. His ability to create complex characters and force them onto morale precipices in such a dangerous and uncertain time keeps The Book Thief moving at a good pace.

However, Zusak has a tendency to get drunk on his own words, swooning into melodramatic cascades of contemplation and constantly interrupting the story with special asides – some of which add substantially to the story and others that are as annoying as flies landing on the page.

Still, I can’t help but give this book five stars for the brilliant cast of characters Zusak created, for the intimate German town he built, and for ringing a good many tears out of me at the end.