The Book Thief

4.8 (3)
4.7 (32)
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3 reviews with 3 stars
32 reviews
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Black and White and Read All Over
(Updated: December 28, 2012)
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What is there to like?
• It’s a story about the importance of telling and reading stories. Liesel and Max Vandenburg use reading to get themselves through their darker days, Liesel and her foster father read together, Liesel and the mayor’s wife come together through a mutual love of books, Liesel reads to the townspeople as they huddle together during the bomb raids. Perhaps especially important in stories about war and The Holocaust—events which, more than so many other things, call for two of storytelling's most important functions: memory and empathy.
• Rudy Steiner, Rudy Steiner, Rudy Steiner.
Liesel’s best friend and partner in troublemaking, brave boy, full of light. The tragedy of a young boy’s death in war is something easily acknowledged, but the fact of it—robbing him, Liesel, the world of his bright, bright future—wouldn’t hurt so deeply if Rudy weren’t someone to love so completely. Heartbreaking.
• Hans Hubermann, Liesel’s foster father: a kind man who keeps his promises and doesn’t know what to do in the face of the tidal wave of Nazi Germany and the war. Again, heartbreaking as a symbol of the real-life men and women of Germany in the 1930s/40s.
• Not everybody in the town is a nice person, in the normal way that not everyone is nice. This is important to show—war doesn’t care how nice people are.
• Some standout poetic sentences and imaginative descriptions throughout.
• The narration by Death offers the opportunity for some interesting reflections and poignant moments of death in wartime and in peace.

What's not to like?
• Extremely irritating stylistic choice of what other reviewers have called interjections. I might call them interruptions. Whatever they are, they feel extremely gimmicky—except it’s not clear what this gimmick is supposed to accomplish, which makes it all the more puzzling and intrusive.
• It is difficult to care, particularly, about Liesel—this must be the main problem with the book. The narrative is somewhat patchwork, containing many vignettes that occur either during or prior to Liesel’s own timeline, many of which are beautiful or sad or true-seeming. However, Liesel feels like little more than a catalyst for all the interesting things that happen all around her. As the titular character, the book thief should be the one the readers are most invested in, but it seems impossible to get a sense of who she really is—which is thrown into even sharper relief by the captivating personalities of Rudy Steiner, Hans Hubermann, and other townspeople. As a result, the book is missing a heart, which made it difficult for me to love it.

What made me pick it up?
The title; seemingly universal praise; it was continuously on the bestseller list since long before I even paid any attention to bestseller lists.

Other books to try:
The Berlin Boxing Club
Number the Stars
Code Name Verity

Overall recommendation: Recommended.
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It Could Have Been Better . . .
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Reader reviewed by Iryna

Its just a
small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an
accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite
a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany,
Markus Zusaks groundbreaking new 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 cant resistbooks. 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.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

picked up this book because 1) it won, like, a million awards so I
thought it must be good and 2) this was the next book in the book club
I take part in. I'm going to be honest with you: I don't like
historical fiction. Atleast, not most historical fiction novels but I thought that this book would be the exception to my rule. I was wrong.

at first I hated this book. Sure the narrator (Death) was really cool
but that was the only thing I really enjoyed about this book. Markus
Zusak stuffed a lot of pointless information into this novel. Okay, I
have to give the author some credit -- it was well written pointless information. I'm pretty sure it was to build character development but I just kind of found it boring.

So, if I disliked this book so much why didn't I just stop reading it?

as I mentioned before, this was for a book club so I was set on
finishing it. And you know what? I'm glad I did. 150 pages before the
end it started getting interesting. I'm not going to give anything away
because you don't want the book spoiled.

So as a summary, the beginning was blah but the ending was good. I would give this book a B -.

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I'm gonna go out on a ledge here...
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Reader reviewed by Meg

Okay I'm gonna go crazy here and disagree with all the critics. Unlike (it seems) everyone else in the world, I didn't love this book. I thought that it was very original, being told from the perspective of death, and I definitely felt a connection with the characters, but for some reason the story didn't get me in the heart like other WW2 books have in the past. The book "Maus" which told the story of a holocaust survivor in the graphic novel medium, with mice representing Jews, tugged at my heart much more than the characters in this book. That's right, cartoon mice made me cry. But not "The Book Theif". But maybe I just have a natural affection for mice?
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