The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
HERE IS A SMALL FACT - YOU ARE GOING TO DIE. 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier. Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall. SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION - THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH. It's a small story, about: a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. ANOTHER THING YOU SHOULD KNOW - DEATH WILL VISIT THE BOOK THIEF THREE TIMES
This was absolutely extraordinary. I've only just read the last page a couple of seconds ago, and my face is still streaked with tears. I've never read anything that could evoke so much emotion in me. It is such a treasure.
I absolutely devoured this book. It was a good 550 pages, and I soared through it in a couple of days. There would be times when I wouldn't stop reading for hours and I'd end up shocked at how many pages I had gotten through.
As with all of my favourite books (and this has definitely been promoted to one of my favourites), I feel slightly strange writing reviews, as I always feel I can never quite put into words just how remarkable they really are. I'll try my best here.
The plot is so, so strong. There must be thousands of books written about World War Two, the holocaust and Hitler, but this one really is something else, something different. The writing is incredibly lyrical and almost poetic. The way it moved me has revealed Zusak to be a genius in my eyes, I feel he's accomplished a true work of art.
The book has every reason to be dark and morbid, but it somehow dances away from labels like these. There's humour, there's the glorious descriptions, and best of all, there are the characters. I cannot think of many characters that I have fallen in love with as much as I fell for Liesel and her papa, not to mention Rudy, Rosa, and the whole damn lot of them. I've read many a book where the author has concentrated fully on one or two main characters, and has left the remaining minor characters to dissolve into the background, lessening their importance and depth by doing so. All of Zusak's characters here, however, are round and interesting. This was wonderful, everyone was strikingly believable and I adored every single one of them.
My favourite thing about the book was that it was essentially about the power of words and language, touching on the idea that Hitler's power was derived solely from his use of language. The way the book was written fit perfectly into this theme, with the language constantly evoking some kind of emotion from me as I read.
Zusak has done a remarkable job here in keeping the memory of the holocaust alive, and I believe it was Elie Wiesel who said that, "anyone who does not remember betrays them again."
It's beautiful and painful all at once, it's tragic and wonderful, and I want everyone I know to have read it.
(As a small aside here, I'd like to note that this book was given to me anonymously by someone who believed I would love it. I did, I do, and it was a wonderful gift. If you're reading this, thank you so much for opening my eyes to this, you have made me very happy)
27 / 66 books. 41% done!