The Book Thief

When all the votes were coming in on the poll as to what book I should read next, The Book Thief was in a clear lead.

So, I started it. And finished it tonight.

I’m not thinking it’s a book you want to read if you’re the least little bit discouraged. Or, if you have abandonment issues. Or, if you went to Amsterdam when you were eight years old and walked through Anne Frank’s house behind the bookcase, and it changed your life forever.

How can you say you don’t like a book which so poignantly depicts the effects of war? You can’t. This book is full of the most vivid imagery I’ve read in a long time. Narrated by Death, and isn’t he the wise one, we are told the story of Liesel.

Dear Liesel, torn from her mother, her brother dying on the train to their foster parents, a new foster mother whose apparent harshness can only be offset by her foster father’s gentleness.

He was my favorite character. Anyone who stays up through all hours of the night with an adopted daughter to comfort her, and teaches her to read, is a hero in my book.

I can’t comment on much more of this book partly because of the tears still standing in my eyes, partly because of the tragedy of loss, partly because I call my father “Papa” too, and the thought of Death visiting our family is unimaginable in the depths of the grief I would feel. Rest assured, this book will touch every emotion you’ve ever felt, and it might even cause you to ask, as I did, “Just how much pain is a person able to withstand?”

And yet, like Liesel, we are not left without hope in the middle of our sorrow.

(The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, was a finalist in 2007 for the Michael L. Printz Award, an annual award in the U.S. for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. If you would like my hardcover copy leave a comment indicating you would, and I will pull a winner a week from today.)

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37 thoughts on “The Book Thief”

  1. 3M, I must say that I don't LOVE it. It was so heartbreaking I can hardly stand it. Of course, whose life is left unscathed by pain? It's just that Liesel had so much! I do think it was beautifully, and creatively, written. The images are so clear, and the last line ("I am haunted by humans") is quite thought provoking.

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  2. A powerful book, huh? I had a lot of different expectations of this book, but this went so far beyond any of them in terms of how I would be touched by the story. Maybe we all need a little heartbreak from time to time to keep remembering. Beautiful review, Bellezza.

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  3. Wow, Wow, wow ….. it's first on my list to read … okay, so it's not light reading; not the best for one who is close to or has been close to despair recently; narrated by Death itself …. hmmmmPut my name in the hat! I hope I win it. It will remind me that in the grand schem of things, my problems are pretty small, indeed ….fondly,lady blue

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  4. Bellezza -It is strange to say you love a book like this one but I don't know what else to say. There's this – when I started my blog, I had one book that I would say would always be in my to be read pile, meaning that I could pick it up at any time and read it again. Now, a year later, I have three – To Kill A Mockingbird, A Boy's Life, and The Book Thief. They are all books that have left a perminent imprint on my psyche and my soul (if that's not too dramatic) and the biggest mark has been left by The Book Thief.Every time I read a wonderful review, like yours, I want to pick it up and read it again.And I'm impressed that you read it in one night!cjh

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  5. Lady Blue, your name is entered. It's quite a touching story, but not altogether hopeless. Sometimes commiserating in one's grief is comforting; I felt I understood Liesel on many levels and I wonder if you will, too.Suziqoregon, I feel like almost the only one of us bloggers who hadn't read it yet!

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  6. CJ, our comments crossed each other or I would have included you in the one above. I didn't read it in one night, although that would have been a mighty claim, I just finished it last night. I actually had to lay it down several times because it was so heavy. I know what you mean about leaving an imprint in your soul, that is not too dramatic a comment. It deals with such heavy topics which are so universal to us all; even though we're not at war, we all deal must with loss. I haven't read Boys' Life in years, but I remember LOVING that book! I recommended it to my book club at that time, and it was universally appealing to them as well. It just made me taste childhood. Sort of like Bradbury's Dandelion Wine. Am I correct in remember them riding their bikes and ascending to the sky as they went so fast?

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  7. My wife really wants me to read this and has ever since I bought it for her and she finally got to reading it. And I will. I have heard nothing but good things and have no doubt I will enjoy it. But this is one of those books that, for me, I have to really be in the mood for in order to read. Maybe for this year's R.I.P. Challenge.

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  8. Carl, you certainly will need to be in the right frame of mind…it's very heavy. I think the RIP Challenge would be perfect especially as there's so much 'autumnal' about it.

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  9. I'm looking forward to reading this. I keep postponing this particular read since I've been inordinately preoccupied with some other things. Sounds like timing may very well be something to consider.

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  10. Yup, on the last day of school.I've rarely read a book that made me believe magic was real. Not like Boy's Life.Oh, and btw – I'm already looking forward to the next Japanese Literature Challenge since you're going to run it again!cjh

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  11. it is, hands down, one of the best books I have ever read. I understand where you are coming from because you really do hope that the ending would be more hopeful. I think that perhaps though that is one of the ugly realities of war.

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  12. Rhinoa, as Carl suggested, maybe you'd like to read it when/if he hosts another RIP Challenge.Terri, if nothing else read it to know what everyone's been raving about. Let alone the poignancy of the novel.CJ, it makes me happy that you enjoyed the Japanese literature challenge so much. I have to think of the time frame because there are so many challenges going on right now. I believe a lot of them end in June so perhaps July would be a good time for the start of another Japanese challenge. I'll probably have to hold another trusty poll. And, thanks for verifying my memory on Boy's Life. That was a great book!MS-Teacher, absolutely. I think it's important to bring up the ugliness, and that's a very mild word, of war especially as so many of our students/young men are entranced by the violent video games. I'm convinced they think the wounded will just get up and walk away.

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  13. Hey, I know the plot of this book. I think that there was going to be a movie or something, but I may be very wrong in that. I have a slight idea of the plot. Your review is really touching and yes I would love to have the chance to win the hard cover.

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  14. Princess Haiku, it did show very unique perspectives and was especially applicable to the Young Adult audience it was written for. I think it's a good idea to make them more sensitive to atrocities like we were when we lived through Viet Nam's era. It's too easy to take peace for granted.Daydream, I'll put your name in the drawing.

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  15. My 88 year old mother just finished reading this book, and, like you, couldn't put it down. Please put my name in for the drawing. It sounds like a very important book to read! Thanks!

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  16. Robin, consider your name entered. I wonder what your mother thought of it, specifically, having lived through the war. I lived in Germany in the early 80s, and I remember asking a dear German grandmother who lived the apartment above us how she felt with all the American soldiers in her town during the early 40's. She said, "Better them than the Russians." Also, she remembered them giving out chocolate bars quite fondly. But, neither of us wished to talk too much about the war itself.Andi, I don't know if I'll ever re-read it. Hence the give away. But, it certainly was profound. Maybe so much so it'll always be with me.

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  17. The Book Thief is definitely a hard read but an incredible one. I'm glad to see he won an award for excellence in literature with that book. Zusak was much deserving.

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  18. He is a wonderful writer, so able to touch our inner core. I think I have to gear up before I can try another one of his though. Have you read his novel "I Am Messenger"? The Miami Herald calls it "Funny and griping." I'm ready for funny.

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  19. Please excuse me that this comment is totally off topic. :DFor the herding cats challenge, leaving a review for me to add is the same as how you joined. Please forgive me that I don't remember, over 50 people joined. 😉 If you left a comment with your list, you can leave another comment on the main challenge post with your review, or you can e-mail me if you did it that way. Whichever works! 🙂 It all gets to me!- Renay

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  20. hey.. i just finished the book thief as well and i really really liked it.. my favourite character was "death".. i loved the way zusak had portrayed death..almost endearing!:)btw, I am linking your reviews to the books i have also read in my blog.. you can check it out here:http://addicted-to-books-index.blogspot.com/and yeah..do put my name down for the drawing as well..:)

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  21. Ah, so you've read it. Pretty amazing book, isn't it? Very powerful and emotionally draining. I literally sobbed as I read the final chapters. My husband couldn't understand why I would want to read something that was obviously so heartbreaking. He won't read it. He doesn't want to feel sad anymore than he already does, ya know? You said, I actually had to lay it down several times because it was so heavy. I remember doing just that. It was too much to read all at once. I don't recall any other book affecting me the way this one did. But, unlike you, I do believe I'll read it again someday. Personally, I didn't care as much for I Am the Messenger. I'll be interested to hear what you think. I didn't think it was terribly funny.Are you referring to Robert McCammon's Boy's Life. I think there's another out there (A Boy's Life) by Wolff. The McCammon book is fabulous! I have it on a "Coming-of-Age Favorites" display at work. Oh, how I loved that book. Definitely time to read it again. Maybe later this month when I fly to San Diego.

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  22. Les, I cried too. Like tears down the cheeks hoping my husband wasn't looking at me because he wouldn't get how a book can make you cry. I was referring to Robert McCammon's Boy's Life. I'd love to read that again, it's been about 15 years, and I remember absolutely loving it. I'm glad to have The Book Thief read so now I'm up to snuff with everyone who's read it. But, really, it was so darn sad…

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  23. Thank you for your book recommendations. I'll definitely read this one. I picked up A Dog's Life at Target after reading your comments about it.If it's not too late, please add my name to the list.

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  24. It's not too late at all, dear Beverly! I'm glad you remembered about A Dog's Life and I hope you like it. It's one of those animal stories that tear at your heart, but it has a good ending!

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  25. I'm so glad the dog found a good home. Her struggles were certainly great during her life. The author certainly seemed to get into the dog's mind.

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  26. I was relieved, too, that the two 'ladies' could be happy in the home together. They seemed to comfort each other. It reminded me a bit of Black Beauty, in that the author tells the story from the animal's point of view and as you say, really lets us "get into the dog's mind." The kids in my class loved it, except for when Moon died.

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  27. I SO loved this book. I feel like I'm late to the party with my comments (sorry…spent the weekend in the Windy City!) But I'm so glad you liked the book. It was a FANTASTIC read!!

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  28. Oh, Stephanie. It's been so long since I've been to the Windy City! I've been dying to go to the Art Institute and eat lunch at the Russian Tea Room down the street. What did youd do there? A Mother's Day celebration, perhaps?I'm glad you've read the book, too. I think I was the only one in our Blogger world who hadn't.

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  29. Bellezza, actually my husband and I went to concert at the House of Blues on Friday night. We stayed at the Seneca hotel (right by the John Hancock building on Chestnut). GORGEOUS! So Saturday was a lot of window shopping, lunch at the Cheesecake Factory….lots of walking around the downtown area. I would have LOVED to go the Art Institute. It's one of my favorite spots in all of Chicago!! Maybe we could meet up there one weekend! I need to go with someone who appreciates it…unlike my husband! He spends all his time yawning and looking at his watch!

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  30. I haven't been to Chicago in so long…I'm hoping to get there this summer for my husband's and my seventh anniversary. Like yours, I suspect he may yawn in the museum. If so, I'll call you. 🙂

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  31. I loved this book, but you're right, in the same way that I loved walking through the Anne Frank house. It broke my heart. What was especially interesting to me was that I had never read any WWII books from the point of view of Germans, be they Nazis or otherwise. So that was very cool.Glad you enjoyed the book. If by enjoyed, I mean, it touched you.

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