Copyright © Louise Bostock 2007-2013. Please give credit where credit is due.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Book notes No. 36 : The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

Yesterday afternoon, about 3pm. It's hot but not too hot. Mama is lying on the garden seat, propped on cushions, surrounded by the purple lavender, the white and pink oleander, the dense screen of camellia. The lake and the mountains shimmer in a blue haze beyond. Three children squabble over two ice lollies at her feet. In the lower part of the garden, more spritz each other with hosepipe and water pistols, screaming with laughter.

A happy scene. 

So why are the tears cascading down Mama's face? "Why?" asks the littlest of the children.

I'll tell you why. 

The last ten pages of Markus Zusak's bestselling The Book Thief.

That's why!

For a long time Amazon recommended this book, and I stayed away from it. Any novel involving books is a draw for me, but novels about Nazi Germany are a clear no-no in an Anglo-German household (in Basil Fawlty's words, we "don't [often] mention the war"...). When I asked my online correspondents to recommend a book, however, they echoed Amazon's insistence, and I finally followed their advice (thanks especially to LadyFi).

And what did I find? A magnificent, magnificent book. Innovative in form. Compassionate in feeling. Resonant with insight. You'd have thought it had all been said on this subject. And this book proves you'd have been wrong.

The story begins in 1939. It centres on Liesel, who comes to a suburb of Munich following the deportation of her parents to a concentration camp. Liesel has a passion to learn to read and write, and her charismatic foster-father helps her. As the war tightens its grip on the ordinary German, work becomes scarce, and food even scarcer, and Liesel discovers a talent for stealing : books. This is Liesel's story. And the story of the inhabitants of the ironically-named Himmel Street when the bombs start falling and death comes a-knocking. And it's the story of how words can kill, can save, can incite hatred or love, can join people together or tear them apart. 

Dark? Yes. Depressing? No. Uplifting? Yes. Life-affirming? Yes. Page-turning? Yes. Yes. Yes.

If you're not one of the half million people to have already read this book, get a copy. Steal one if you have to. But whatever you do, don't miss it, like I almost did!

6 comments:

ladyfi said...

Great review. You've captured the essence of this book, which has compassion at its heart.

So glad you enjoyed it. I cried buckets too at the end. I have a feeling I'll be re/reading this several times in the future.

Vanessa. said...

Read it! Loved it too.

Cathy said...

Generally I am not one for books about such dark topics, but I think I will have to make an exception and try and get hold of a copy.

ilse said...

And I still don't know how a 28-year-old Australian managed to capture the atmosphere so perfectly!

Carol said...

I keep picking the book up and then putting it back down again! Lady Fi's post made me re-think and now yours has confirmed that the next book I shall be buying is this one!!

C x

LindyLouMac said...

With similar feelings to you Louise I too have steered away from this, but I have read so many good reviews recently and the fact it made the Lovereading Top Ten Books of The Decade (which I wrote about on my book review blog in May)it has now nearly reached the top of Mt TBR. Reading your excellent review I am now looking forward to it even more, thankyou.

If you have time I would be interested to know how many of the top ten you have read?

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Book notes No. 36 : The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

Yesterday afternoon, about 3pm. It's hot but not too hot. Mama is lying on the garden seat, propped on cushions, surrounded by the purple lavender, the white and pink oleander, the dense screen of camellia. The lake and the mountains shimmer in a blue haze beyond. Three children squabble over two ice lollies at her feet. In the lower part of the garden, more spritz each other with hosepipe and water pistols, screaming with laughter.

A happy scene. 

So why are the tears cascading down Mama's face? "Why?" asks the littlest of the children.

I'll tell you why. 

The last ten pages of Markus Zusak's bestselling The Book Thief.

That's why!

For a long time Amazon recommended this book, and I stayed away from it. Any novel involving books is a draw for me, but novels about Nazi Germany are a clear no-no in an Anglo-German household (in Basil Fawlty's words, we "don't [often] mention the war"...). When I asked my online correspondents to recommend a book, however, they echoed Amazon's insistence, and I finally followed their advice (thanks especially to LadyFi).

And what did I find? A magnificent, magnificent book. Innovative in form. Compassionate in feeling. Resonant with insight. You'd have thought it had all been said on this subject. And this book proves you'd have been wrong.

The story begins in 1939. It centres on Liesel, who comes to a suburb of Munich following the deportation of her parents to a concentration camp. Liesel has a passion to learn to read and write, and her charismatic foster-father helps her. As the war tightens its grip on the ordinary German, work becomes scarce, and food even scarcer, and Liesel discovers a talent for stealing : books. This is Liesel's story. And the story of the inhabitants of the ironically-named Himmel Street when the bombs start falling and death comes a-knocking. And it's the story of how words can kill, can save, can incite hatred or love, can join people together or tear them apart. 

Dark? Yes. Depressing? No. Uplifting? Yes. Life-affirming? Yes. Page-turning? Yes. Yes. Yes.

If you're not one of the half million people to have already read this book, get a copy. Steal one if you have to. But whatever you do, don't miss it, like I almost did!

6 comments:

ladyfi said...

Great review. You've captured the essence of this book, which has compassion at its heart.

So glad you enjoyed it. I cried buckets too at the end. I have a feeling I'll be re/reading this several times in the future.

Vanessa. said...

Read it! Loved it too.

Cathy said...

Generally I am not one for books about such dark topics, but I think I will have to make an exception and try and get hold of a copy.

ilse said...

And I still don't know how a 28-year-old Australian managed to capture the atmosphere so perfectly!

Carol said...

I keep picking the book up and then putting it back down again! Lady Fi's post made me re-think and now yours has confirmed that the next book I shall be buying is this one!!

C x

LindyLouMac said...

With similar feelings to you Louise I too have steered away from this, but I have read so many good reviews recently and the fact it made the Lovereading Top Ten Books of The Decade (which I wrote about on my book review blog in May)it has now nearly reached the top of Mt TBR. Reading your excellent review I am now looking forward to it even more, thankyou.

If you have time I would be interested to know how many of the top ten you have read?