Friday, 27 December 2013

REVIEW - THE BOOK THIEF BY MARKUS ZUSAK

ISBN: 978-0552779739
ASIN: B0031R5K72
Book Edition: Movie Tie In
Publisher: Black Swan
Pages/File Size: 560pages/3772KB
Formats Available: Paperback, E-Book, Audiobook
Release Dates: 2 January 2014 

BLURB from Goodreads
The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller that will be in movie theaters on November 15, 2013, Markus Zusak's unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul.

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.


MY INITIAL THOUGHTS
My honest initial thoughts approaching this book were I was either going to love it or hate it. I got the totally wrong impression and imagined the book to be slow paced and maybe a bit on the depressing side to read. I have had another paperback version of this book in my hand pondering purchasing but something always made me put it back on the shelf and walk away. 
At 17% I am surprised that I am finding this book an interesting and somewhat educating read.
My comment at 65% is that this book is extremely interesting as it is set in a well known era of history yet this book shows you how even the Germans who lived in Munich actually suffered at Hitler's hand and didn't necessarily agree with his dictatorship or aggressive actions.

MY REVIEW
I downloaded this book free form Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
So I admit to being attracted to the cover of this book, the forlorn looking young lady whom through the book we learn is called Liesel. The young woman on the cover humanizes the story even more than the other covers this book is available with. My pet hate is again featured on this book with a comment about the book from The Guardian, having said that, their comment is an incredibly accurate description of the book. 
So would this cover make me  pick up this book in a store? Yes it would, I felt immediately drawn to the young woman on the cover. Her eyes that hold many secrets and sadness and the way she clutches her book to her chest tightly. Yet there's also a defiance in those eyes too, you learn more about it in the book. 
I think the blurb also piques your interest more when you learn that the book/story is actually told by and from the point of view of death. So my curiosity got the better of me in the end and I felt compelled to read this book.
So the story really begins with Liesel, her younger brother and her mother on a train being transported somewhere. Liesel and her brother are to be given to foster parents. During the cold and arduous journey Liesel realises her brother has died. Liesel, her mother and her brother are taken from the train at the next stop, where the young boy is buried . . .this is the first time we experience Liesel stealing a book. the book is a grave diggers manual. Liesel doesn't know this when she picks it up and hides it in her pocket after one of the grave diggers drops it. She doesn't know anything about the book, as she is yet to learn to read. I think Liesel took the book as it was a last memory of her brother. Liesel and her mother then go in different directions after the funeral, Liesel to the Hubermanns and her mother back to the train to . . . . well that is kind of left to your imagination.
Liesel is taken to the Hubermann's whom she does really does grow to love like parents and they do eventually love her as their own daughter too. Her new Papa is Han's Hubermann a tall, thin man with kind silver eyes who goes on to teach Liesel how to read. Her new Mama is a described in the book as a small wardrobe of a woman by comparison to Han's and is a brusque woman. In fact calling Liesel a pig or pig girl is quite a term of endearment and affection coming from Rosa.
Throughout the book Liesel "comes by" other books, she rescues one from a public book burning in the town. Hans and Rosa on the surface have to be seen to agree with Hitler, though privately they have grave doubts and do dare to defy him. Hans is a painter and will paint the homes and businesses of Jews as well as Germans but soon he realises he has to be seen to conform and has to apply to become a member of the Nazi Party or he will be forced out of business himself. Hans and Rosa have two grown children Trudy who works for a rich German family and then there's the Hitler loving son who despises the fact that his father is not immediately accepted into the Nazi party.
This book shows you the other side of the war, it shows you the atrocities and hardships that Hitler brought down on his own people in his own so called Beloved Germany.
From the point of view and voice of death we learn how Hans has already fought in the first world war and was "lucky" to escape with his life. In that war Hans met and made a good friend and ended up delivering the bad news to that mans family that he had died in the war. Being the kind and generous man he is Hans offers his help and gives the mans wife his address on Himmel Street. His promise of help later comes back to haunt him as his friend has a son, both are Jewish and when Max is desperate and has no where else to turn, he turns to his fathers old war friend Hans for help. Hans and Rosa make the incredibly dangerous decision to go ahead and help Max by hiding him in their cellar.
I found this book to be many things, informative, interesting, heart warming, heart tugging, heart breaking, sad yet with a core of hope running through it too. One comment I made to my daughter is that as part of the World War 2 studies in schools that perhaps this book would be a very educational one to be read. The book certainly opened my eyes to the plight of those Germans whom perhaps didn't agree with Hitler but had to hide the fact in order to continue living. There are many stories and books about the fighting aspects of the war, the french resistance, spies and undercover spies and so on but I've never read one that told the side of the persecuted Germans so well.
The pace of the book is of a medium pace. The characters you grow to love and the friendships are there to read about too. Liesel and Rudy the boy next door who affectionately call each other pig, pig girl and pig boy, go stealing together, go hungry together . . .and all Rudy wants is a kiss from Liesel. there's also Hans and Rosa's relationship, though not perfect you do know they love each other. Then there's the enemies Mrs Rosa Hubermann and the lady across the road who never passes the hubermanns front door without spitting on it! and guess who has to clean the door? Yes Liesel. Later Liesel tries to comfort the spitting neighbour by reading to her. When things get really bad Rosa and the neighbour make a kind of truce. there are awful things in the book, after all it is being told in the voice of death. I also enjoyed the at times fragile relationship between Liesle and the Mayors Wife. Then there are the horrific things Liesel has to see and endure, such as her brothers death, and watching the Jews marched through their town to Dachau. The poor Jews stumbling along and starving, there's the people in the crowd ashamed of the sight but scared to do anything, there's those Hitler lovers who heckle the Jews and agree with their horrible treatment. there's also the occasional brave . . . or maybe stupid German that will hand a passing Jew a crust of bread or help a stumbling Jew stand and what does this caring by stander get? He get called a sympathizer and is whipped by the German guards. This sort of treatment is suffered by Hans and also Liesel in two separate incidents in the book. 
I have to say finally that this book takes you through a whole wide range of emotions and I cannot imagine anyone reading near the end and having a dry eye at all. This is the sort of book that you read and that stays with you forever. It's not often I say I would like to watch a book to movie transfer but I think I would like to watch this one and I just hope that they do the story, and people within the book the justice and care it deserve.
So  did I enjoy the book? Yes, I found the book extremely emotive. Would I recommend the book? Yes, I would go so far as to recommend it should be read in schools too. Would I read a Bk 2? The story is completed within one book, so there would be no book two containing Liesel. However if "Death" chose to tell us another persons story as he told us Liesel's story then I would read a Bk2. Would I read other titles by this Author? Yes I think I would definitely take a close look at other books by this Author.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Brilliant book, a MUST read. This book is filled with realistic characters who you grow to love so much you mourn them when they are no longer there.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Information from Goodreads
Markus Zusak was born in 1975 and is the author of five books, including the international bestseller,The Book Thief , which is translated into more than forty languages. First released in 2005, The Book Thief has spent a total of 375 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and still remains there eight years after it first came out.

His first three books, The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe and When Dogs Cry (also known asGetting the Girl ), released between 1999 and 2001, were all published internationally and garnered a number of awards and honours in his native Australia, and the USA.

The Messenger (or I am the Messenger ), published in 2002, won the 2003 Australian Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Award (Older Readers) and the 2003 NSW Premier's Literary Award (Ethel Turner Prize), as well as receiving a Printz Honour in America. It also won numerous national readers choice awards across Europe, including the highly regarded Deutscher Jugendliteratur prize in Germany.

It is The Book Thief , however, that has established Markus Zusak as one of the most successful authors to come out of Australia. To date, The Book Thief has held the number one position at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, the New York Times bestseller list, as well as in countries across South America, Europe and Asia. It has also been in the top five bestsellers in the UK and several other territories. It has amassed many and varied awards, ranging from literary prizes to readers choice awards to prizes voted on by booksellers. It was the only book to feature on both the USA and UK World Book Night Lists in 2012, and has now been adapted into a major motion picture. 

The Book Thief (the film adaptation) is directed by Emmy Award-winning Brian Percival (Downton Abbey) and was shot in Berlin by Twentieth Century Fox. The cast is headlined by Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush (Shine, The King’s Speech) and Academy Award nominee Emily Watson(Breaking the Waves, Anna Karenina). It also includes exciting new talents Ben Schnetzer, Nico Liersch, and Sophie Nelisse (Monsieur Lazhar), with Nelisse cast as The Book Thief , Liesel Meminger. 

The Guardian calls The Book Thief “a novel of breathtaking scope, masterfully told.” The New York Times: “Brilliant and hugely ambitious…the kind of book that can be life-changing.” The Age: “an original, moving, beautifully written book.”

Markus Zusak grew up in Sydney, Australia, and still lives there with his wife and two children.

No comments:

Post a comment