Friday, 23 January 2009

The Book Thief

Thanks for all your feedback on covers yesterday - I find this sort of thing really interesting, the thought and research which must go into cover design.

Onto the contents. I had to read The Book Thief very quickly, for my book group, but I hope that didn't affec
t my enjoyment of it too much. Enjoyment perhaps a strange word for a book about Nazi Germany narrated by death (I'm going to assume everyone is familiar with the plot, as I seem to be the last person in the world to read the book, but if not then the Wikipedia article gives a brief summary).

There were lots of interesting ideas in the novel - the perspective of Death; the (adoptive) family dynamics in times of great stress; how the public could accept atrocities and how they covertly battled against them. These could all form a blog post, especially Death as a character (which I thought had moments of being very moving, as when he said he always carried the dead children up in his arms) but my favourite thing about The Book Thief was the role of books. It's evident from the title that books are significant - throughout the novel she steals six books, I think. Just over one for every hundred pages. They form the centre of her world - she learns to read with The Gravedigger's Handbook and this sets the tone for the fairly arbitrary nature of her spoils - but her understanding of their importance is something we can all adhere to, I'm sure.

More than anything, I love her response to seeing the mayor's wife's room full of books. Having only held a few in her life, she suddenly sees shelves and shelves of them:

[...]She said it out loud, the words distributed into a room that was full of cold air and books. Books everywhere! Each wall was armed with overcrowded yet immaculate shelving. It was barely possible to see the paintwork. There were all different styles and sizes of lettering on the spines of the black, the red, the grey, the every-coloured books. It was one of the most beautiful thins Liesel Meminger had ever seen.

With wonder, she smiled.

That such a room existed!

Even when she tried to wipe the smile away with her forearm, she realised instantly that it was a pointless exercise[...]

Markus Zusak (as well as being the first author beginning with 'Z' whom I'm read) is a talented story-teller, and The Book Thief is an impressive novel. I didn't love it abundantly, perhaps because some of the themes weren't fully realised and a little too much time was spent on the establishing of relationships between Liesel and her friends and family for my liking - but these qualms aside, I did like the novel very much. Anything this affectionate about books can't be bad.


  1. I haven't read it and I must confess have not had any great desire to. You have made it sound interesting, though, so perhaps I should give it a go.

  2. I found this book very very moving and despite having no desire to read it I picked up a copy in a sale so cheaply it would have been silly not to have bought it. I am glad I did.

  3. Oh you're definitely not the last person in the world to read this book, don't worry!

    Good to know that you 'enjoyed' the book. I found it rather odd to say that I enjoyed the book since there's nothing enjoyable about Nazi Germany. But it's a great read though.

    I would probably react like Liesl if I had been ushered into a roomful of books if I've only seen a few books in my life before.

  4. What made this book stand out for me was that I'm sure it was written by a poet. He'd clearly chosen every single word so carefully and not been afraid to be slightly weird. (Amazing literary analysis there)
    Unlike any other book I've read in a long time - not necessarily in terms of quality, just in terms of.. er.. style.

  5. I must confess - I've yet to read this book, though I've wanted to for quite some time! I once saw a dramatic retelling and, especially now that I see it floating all over the book blog, can't wait to get my hands on it!

  6. This is one of my fav books, I didnt have any desire to read it until my friend was so determined I should she bought me a copy of the big paperback and I felt so endebted I read it... and loved it!


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