BOOK REVIEW: Gripping novel will mesmerize readers of all ages

rbennett@idahostatesman.comOctober 20, 2013 

  • ‘The Book Thief’

    by Markus Zusak; Alfred A. Knopf ($12.99)

Publisher’s summary: 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.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of “I Am the Messenger,” has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time. Zusak’s unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul.

My take: It’s true that “The Book Thief” is a young-adult book, but that doesn’t mean it’s light or full of fluff. No, this book is dark and heavy, and at times gritty. But most of all, it’s good. No, FANTASTIC is a better word.

Full of vivid metaphors and descriptions, Zusak has a mesmerizing, and sometimes off-kilter, way of weaving his story. “The Book Thief” is about secrets and trust and heart-wrenching love narrated by death in Nazi Germany.

I’ve never read a story structured like this before. It’s told in a linear fashion, but not all the way through from beginning to end. Instead, it’s told in chunks about the main and side characters, sometimes taking rabbit trails and interruptions from Death to offer German translations or hints into the future. It took a little bit of effort for me to get used to the voice and the structure of the writing, but once I did, it flowed smoothly and was completely natural.

My rating: A must-read for young and old. This book is so moving and deep and will be a talked-about book for years to come. I can’t wait to see the movie.

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