Book Report: The Book Thief

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Possible review titles:
When a story is narrated by Death, you know it will be grim
I read the last 20 pages through my tears.
Emotional and touching without being manipulative.

On the late 1930’s train ride to Munich where she will live as an orphan with two strangers, Liesel Meminger’s little brother dies. When Death comes to gather her brother’s soul he first takes notice of Liesel and takes an interest in her and the family; he will come across her two more times.

Markus Zusak paints a vivid portrait of the decline in Germany’s fortunes from the start of World War II through 1943. Times are especially difficult for a family of a man who does not join the Nazi party. We see the treatment of Jews as they are lead to Dachau outside of Munich and in other instances. Liesel and her best friend Rudy are always hungry (everyone is always hungry) and do their best to survive.

The plot is compelling, the characters are real and the descriptions are exquisite. I especially like the conceit of having Death narrate the story. He is not someone to be feared; rather, he is just taking up the souls of those killed by other humans. It’s a full time job and he is wearied by it.

I finished this book at the coast in a house we were staying at with friends. I had to go in another room to finish this novel because I was tearing up and ended up practically blubbering. The last book that did that to me was “Terms of Endearment” by Larry McMurtry in the 1980s.

This makes two 5-star books I’ve read in the past month. This makes two 5-star books I’ve read in the past month. But it’s not just me giving an undeserved rave review; it has well over 4 stars on Amazon with over 13,800 reviews given.

It is also the fifth book out of the last 8 I’ve read that has war as the main character or at least as a backdrop. I’ll stay with the theme for a while longer.

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