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The Book Thief Online by Markus Zusak

Click Here to Download the Book A New York Times bestseller for seven years running that's soon to be a major motion picture, this Printz Honor book by the author of I Am the Messenger is an unforgettable tale about the ability of books to feed the soul. Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel 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 before he is marched to Dachau. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Reviews Death acts as narrator in this tale of a young girl's struggle to find understanding and meaning in the world as the Third Reich rises to power in Germany. The first quarter of the book was difficult for me to get into because of the author's choppy writing style and Death's constant interruptions (referencing, defining, or elaborating on some piece of the story). I found the constant interruptions to be more distracting than enlightening. There also seemed to be a lot more foreshadowing going on than actual storytelling...but maybe that's just the way Death operates -- the end is what matters, the rest is just details. I was rather ho-hum about the story until the last 1/3 of the book. I always thought the overall premise was great, but felt that it was poorly executed. However, the ending was chilling, to say the least, and bumped this book up from 3 stars to 4. I could completely visualize these ending scenes...and more importantly, I felt them. The narration seemed to change for the better and I walked away satisfied with the book. I do believe this book deserves better than its relegation to 'young adult lit'.(

Overall, Markus Zusak is an author that I appreciate more than I enjoy. The writing is lovely. The language is beautifully surreal, capturing the tone of what I found to resemble a wistful dream. Zusak is impressively consistent in the endeavor while maintaing a delicacy and tone that seems to ring with every word. It is an austere and morbid but intricate beauty that's quite rare to find, within YA or otherwise, and an accomplishment worth acknowledgement. And it fits perfectly with the way the characters are presented. There's not much closeness with the characters here; instead, it feels like you're observing them from afar, watching them go about their everyday lives but never quite knowing where Zusak plans to take such a progression. I for one found this a little mundane, but I understand what Zusak meant to do, and to his credit I have rarely seen any writer achieve his aim so perfectly.

And that's the main thing, for me. The austerity of his work never resonated with me. It's something lyrical and intricate and sparse but the distance never becomes surmountable. It is a work that I found difficult to love, for all that I was supposed to. That said, I did love the depiction of WWII. Zusak doesn't seem overly bent on portraying the German Nazis as evil demonic sociopaths, but simply people. He asks you to make up your own mind rather than condemning them, and I think that's one of the hardest things to do in any discussion of WWII: to acknowledge that the Nazis are not enemies of humanity but people just like anyone else. The divide people draw between themselves and the Nazis is a pretty harmful way to look at this period in history because it serves no purpose but self-justification on being on the "other side." And I gladly applaud Zusak for his open-mindedness in this respect and willingness to examine all perspectives rather than one, and transfiguring the time period into one of the most elegant renderings I've ever read, at that.

Set in southern Germany during WWII - particularly poignant for me given my mother's and grandmother's recollections of that time. Gives insights into the rise of Nazism, involvement in Hitler Youth, the German people's reaction to bombing raids, evolving feelings about Communists and Jewish people, etc. The main character is a young girl growing up during the war years. She is abandoned by her mother and raised by some interesting foster parents. She draws close to her gentle foster father, who teaches her to read. When some odd circumstances lead the family to start hiding a Jewish man in the basement, the story gets pretty complicated. I thought the writing was brilliant. The choice of narrator is surprising but perfect for this story. Some of the descriptions and phrases in the book are remarkable and powerful. A couple of times, the author jumps forward to tell how things turned out and then backtracks to explain how they got there - annoying at first, but it was effective too. And of course, there's the theme about how important books are.

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