I had heard how great this book was, how sad it was, and how enthralling it was. I finally picked the book up from my library, and started it. I made it about twenty five pages in, them put it down and went to other books. It eventually was forgotten. I picked it up again, a few months later, and tried to read it again. I made it a little farther.
Then, I decided that I would read the whole thing. Third time’s the charm, after all.
And I was hooked.
Yes, it’s sad, but it’s touching too. It made me smile at more than one part.
Blurb from back:
The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller that is now a major motion picture, Markus Zusak’s unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul.
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.
Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.
First of all, the book is narrated by Death. As in, the guy who carries souls to their final resting place. He is an odd character, but he behaves in a death-like way. It’s an unique perspective, and it takes a little getting used to. Be warned: “Death” liked to drop “spoilers” about what’s going to happen before you actually read it. His little notes and definitions add another layer of dimension to the story.
Liesel is taken away from her mother, and deposited outside of Munich, on a street named “Himmel,” meaning heaven. It’s not quite heaven, and it is one of the poorer parts of town. However, her foster papa is very kind to her. Her foster mama is a different story, and she gets rather upset at Liesel many times. She often refers to Liesel as “Saumensch,” a rather derogatory term meaning pig.
School proves itself a bit of a challenge. On finding out that Liesel can’t read, the school sends her to the younger kid’s room, which she hates. When her papa finds out, they start reading sessions together.
Her best friend, a boy named Rudy, plays soccer in the streets with her and is just a friendly pest in general.
All is fine and dandy until a Jewish man named Max comes around when the Fuhrer ramps up his fury against the Jews. Liesel’s foster parents take him in and hide him in their house, but things are heating up.
Liesel: A daring young girl who steals books. (Obviously.)
Papa: Her wonderful foster father who is gentle to her. He plays the accordion in bars, but is a painter by trade. He often can’t get work. He’s a smoker, but Liesel doesn’t mind.
Mama: Her foster mother, Rosa, is harsh, but somewhere deep down, she cares for Liesel too. She does washing for several people to earn extra money. She often refers to people with insulting names.
Rudy: is a dare devil, with hair forever the color of lemons. He loves Liesel, despite being twelve, and is forever begging her for a kiss. They often go on missions to get food as the rations become stricter.
Max: the Jewish man in Liesel’s house. He and Liesel strike up a fast friendship. I can’t give away much, but he is my favorite character.
There are numerous small characters as well.
What I liked:
The beautiful thoughts by “Death.” They’re strange at first, but they help the book. Liesel was an interesting protagonist. She isn’t a perfect character, and that’s what really made her dynamic. She steals, she makes some bad decisions here and there, but she’s also good. Rudy was just plain cute.
What I didn’t like:
Well, it is a war. People die. The ending was slightly spoiled by “Death.” There is a lot of swearing. It’s ingrained into the dialogue. It’s mostly in German, but it never gets too bad. The worst instances are ***hole. “Death” obviously is fictional. The FEELS. Read this on a format large enough to see the artwork.
*Last Note: They made a movie, but I strongly recommend you read the book first. The movie has a few holes, and is nowhere as good as the book. But still, it’s a nice movie.
WRITING: 5/5 STARS
CHARACTERS: 5/5 STARS
THEMATIC STUFF (1 NONE, 5 HIGH): 4
LEVEL OF VIOLENCE (1 BEING NONE, 5 BEING HIGH): 3 (never too gory. Many instances of bombing, Jews being marched to concentration camps, etc.)
LANGUAGE: (1 BEING NONE, 5 BEING HIGH): 4.5
Verdict: 4.5 stars for older audiences