“It’s 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 Zusak’s 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 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 before he is marched to Dachau.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.” (from Goodreads)
WARNING: Very expletive heavy with a few very rude comments/scenes. My rating is based on an edited copy. 😉
From the opening pages of this book, the writing style is simply delicious. The author used perfect original word pictures that delighted me. I smiled over Himmel Street soccer, reading lessons with Papa, and sketches of Max portrayed as a bird. I grew to love every character (even Frau Holtzapfel!) except the Fuhrer. I didn’t know how much I had grown to hate him until I cheered inwardly when SPOILER ALERT! his picture was stepped on. I cried my eyes out over various sections of the book, but the ending just did me in. I could barely make it through the last ten pages or so. *huge grin* It was very long and artistic (perfect for a rainy day! <3) and the writing style made it feel like a real biography.
In order to properly gush about the book I must review the characters themselves. I think I’ll talk about them in ascending order of my favorites. 😉
Rosa Hubermann: Giver of watschens and fierce love.
Rosa is a tiger mama. Downright frightening at some points, but she’d give her life for her family or those in her care if called on to. At the beginning of the story she’s one dimensional and frightening; but by the end you love her and understand her so much better. My favorite part with her was when SPOILER ALERT! she comes to school to get Liesel. The only thing I didn’t like was that she was responsible for 75% of the foul language. She calls everyone by a derogatory term which is eventually seen as endearing when we find out how she actually loves them. (Although, I still find calling someone you love those names a bit twisted.)
Rudy Steiner: Jesse Owens and the boy whose hair was the color of lemons.
Oh, Rudy. He steps on my heart, that boy. I didn’t really like him in the movie–to me he was just an immature little squirt who was looking for a kiss. In the book he is all of those things, but he was also growing into a very good young man. I really started to love him (I nearly died when SPOILER ALERT! he gave that Allied pilot a teddy bear) and wanted to see him mature even further. One of the things he did was very Hans Hubermann of him; and, even though his code of conduct is a little mixed up, he was an oddly chivalrous and hilarious best friend to Liesel. 😉
Best quote: In the middle of the exchange, Liesel tripped on a bump in the floor. A mannequin followed her down. It groped her arm and dismantled its clothes on top of her. “Get this thing off me!” It was in four pieces. The torso and head, the legs, and two separate arms. When she was rid of it, Liesel stood and wheezed. Rudy found one of the arms and tapped her on the shoulder with its hand. When she turned in fright, he extended it in friendship. “Nice to meet you.”
Liesel Meminger: the book thief and SPOILER ALERT! wordshaker.
She was the main character. The one who SPOILER ALERT! read aloud to her neighbors, brought Max a snowman for Christmas, and stole a smoking book. The one who hated the words and loved them. The one who planted the seed. The one who SPOILER ALERT! was always left behind. When the story starts out, she doesn’t understand what is going on at all. (At one point it’s described as “the Jews were going to Dachau to ‘concentrate’. Whatever that means.) The crisis she has when she realizes what going on is very interesting. SPOILER ALERT! I think Max’s book was meant to prepare her for that. It was so sweet of him to write it.
Best quote: She didn’t dare to look up, but she could feel their frightened eyes hanging on to her as she hauled the words in and breathed them out. A voice played the notes inside her. This, it said, is your accordion.
Hans Hubermann: the man with with the accordion heart and silver eyes of kindness.
Papa is pretty much trying to stay out of politics when we first meet him, but when he decides to do what is right it’s impossible to stay neutral. I really loved him. He’s so comfortable, caring, and conflicted. He treated Liesel as if she were his own daughter and offered to teach her to read even when he could barely read himself. ❤ He had so much soul and gave so much.
Best quote: “Better that we leave the paint behind,” Hans told her, “than ever forget the music.”
Max Vandenburg: the Jewish fistfighter who stole the sky. (<3 ❤ <3)
(Of course he would be my favorite since he’s an author.) 😉 When Max comes to Himmel Street he is so broken by the world’s opinion of him and his own guilt and memories. (The author did such a good job with his backstory!) He and Liesel shared a beautiful friendship, and the basement sessions were some of my favorite parts of the book. I loved the books SPOILER ALERT! he wrote for Liesel, and the effect they had on both of their lives. It was also amazing of him to SPOILER ALERT! leave their house when he thought he would endanger them. I really loved this character. (And I’m part of the camp that is convinced he SPOILER ALERT! married Liesel later on.) 😉
Best quote: They sat a few meters apart, speaking very rarely, and there was only the noise of turning pages.
There is one more character I should mention. I really can’t decide what I think of him.
The Narrator: death.
I understand why the author chose this storytelling device (a very witty and good one too!). Who would be better to narrate a story during wartime? It was also important to the point of the story, but I found it odd how he could just SPOILER ALERT! arrive and collect a souls whenever someone died. What exactly did he do with them? I really would have appreciated God being in the story at this point.
While I really LOVE this book and underlined way too many amazing quotes, I wouldn’t recommend this story for anyone younger than highschool age even with an edited copy. This is a war story; and, while most of the descriptions are handled suprisingly well, everything having to do with the SPOILER ALERT! Holtzapfel brothers particularly the chapters “The Snows of Stalingrad” and “The Ninety-Eighth Day” is very violent. Also the children have a dubious code of conduct, since stealing is major theme of the book. 😉 If you would like something less artistic and less violent, I suggest the movie on a language filter. 😉 (Although it’s so abridged that the book is really better…) 😉
I loved this book soooo much! It was so broken and beautiful. I wish I could leave you with more quotes or give you an edited copy and make you read it. For now, I’ll just have to hope that this review did its work. 😉