Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Book Thief -- Marcus Zusak

Another YA novel, or at least that's the way it was promoted and sold in the U. S. It was even an Honor Book in the Printz awards for excellence in young adult literature. In Australia, the author's native country, however, it was sold as a book for adults. At 550 pages, it's a lot longer the the books I usually read, but it was worth the time.

Zusak took a big chance when he chose the narrator and voice for his novel. The narrator is Death, and it turns out that Death has a heart and even a sense of humor. Dark humor, indeed, but humor. Death is also sentimental.

The story is about Liesel Meminger, a German girl age nine in the year 1939 when she's taken by her mother to live with foster parents. Her brother dies on the way, and we expect that her mother doesn't survive much longer. Liesel's foster parents are Rosa and Hans Hubermann, and they live in the town of Molching, near Munich. We get to know them and some of the other residents of the town well. If you think there are going to be terrible events and plenty of suffering, well, you're right. But there are happiness and music and love, too.

Leisel is the book thief of the title, and the first volume she steals is The Gravedigger's Handbook. Hans teaches her to read from this book, and she steals others over the years. Eventually she writes her own book, and the writing saves her life. It doesn't save anyone else, however. (This isn't a spoiler. Death doesn't believe in suspense, and lots of plot points are revealed long before they happen.)

This is the kind of book I hesitate to recommend because I'm sure it's not for everybody. I liked it a lot, myself. You could always take a look and see what you think.


Richard Robinson said...

Appreciate the review, but this one doesn't appear to be my cuppa.

George said...

Diane read THE BOOK THIEF and liked it very much. Trust me, it had to be better than Sarah Hoyt's DARKSHIP THIEVES.

Bill Crider said...

I saw your review of that one, George, and I think I'll pass.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I liked it a lot, too. Which surprised me. My book group voted in their favorite book in the seven years we've been around.