Includes minor spoilers (or almost-spoilers).
"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."
An unforgettable experience. Unique in so many ways. It's been a while since I've read a book that I did not want to put down, that I set aside whole afternoons to devour.
*** Newsflash ***
This book will earn 5 of 5 magic wands.
No surprise there, given my preamble. At LegendFire, we writers discuss books. What else does one do at a writing forum? Over the past few years the title The Book Thief kept cropping up. I was like, yeah, but I've never heard of Markus Zusak, and because I'm one of those scaredy-cats who rarely ventures out of her comfort zone, I didn't bother looking for the book.
Until this autumn.
*** A Lesson Learned ***
Reach out, take a chance,
pull the book off the shelf,
experience something new
I finally told myself, "Self, you have got to expand your horizons. Go to the bookstore and pick out several books by authors you've never read before." Zusak was the first author I reached for. When I read the first couple of pages and discovered who our narrator was going to be for the long haul, I rolled my eyes. "How gimmicky," I said. Yes, I said it aloud. My fear was that the book was going to be cheesy, an author trying too hard to tell an old story in a new way, and I wondered if I would be able to stick with it.
*** A gimmick ***
Death himself is the narrator.
I'm always ecstatic when my fears are proved to be unfounded. It was Zusak's startling, poetic writing style (I learned new ways to use verbs, for one) and the glimpses of our young book thief that kept me reading for the next few pages. And soon even the narrator won me over. Death is troubled by humanity. How can humans be so beautiful and so horrendous, so good to one another and so cruel? How can they keep getting up when their wounds are so deep? He is tired of war; he is tired of plucking souls from bombed-out basements and battlefields. But every once in a while he crosses paths with a human who gives him hope. One such person is the book thief. Their paths cross too many times during the early years of World War II, and every time, the book thief is able to distract Death from his tiresome and disheartening duty.
Eventually, it becomes clear that Death's struggle to understand humanity, his desperate and jaded search for some redeeming qualities are as much a part of the story as the book thief's struggle to learn how to read, her discovery of the detrimental power of words, the saving power of words, and her friendship with the Jew hiding in her basement.
I could go on and on about what makes this book memorable, but short and sweet is best these days. If you can stand a heartbreaking story, grab a copy, grab the box of tissues, and settle in for a remarkable journey.
Obviously, others thought the same. The movie version was released this year. I suppose I shall add it to my to-watch list. Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson among the cast? Yep, I'm sold.
5 of 5 magic wands, as was foreshadowed...
*** An apology ***
For stealing Death's narrative inserts for this review
and reviewing a book that is several years old.
Comfort zones cause one to miss out.