Author: Markus Zusak
Publication Date: 3/14/06
Blurb (GR): 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.
I find it so exciting that every book is its own adventure. Though each of them is merely a cover and pieces of paper, the author has filled it with words that make it unique and the reader has only vague ideas of what might be coming in the hours of reading ahead. This book has been haunting me foryears. I attempted to read it several times and ended up just putting it down but since my new book club picked it for our first meeting, I was somewhat obligated to finish it. I'm extremely glad I did.
This novel, narrated by Death itself, tells the story of a young German girl, Liesel Meiminger, growing up during the Holocaust/WWII era. She starts her life with her mother and brother and we follow her journey as a foster child in a small town outside Munich. Though this book is labeled young adult, for reasons completely unknown to me (perhaps merely the fact that Liesel is a child?), I definitely enjoyed it as literature. Then again, you'd never hear me utter a blasphemous word about the young adult genre--as it stands, I find myself reading about 70% young adult literature these days. I guess the point I am trying (horribly) to make here is that it saddens me that perhaps less people will have easy access or hear of this book (or the many, many other AMAZING young adult books) because of marketing and chosen publishing audiences.
The narration of this book took a little getting used to, but once I was with the program, I found Death's asides to be some of my favorite parts of the book. He (she?) filled me in with those details that might be left hanging in other books. Death also left a lot of vivid imagery for my imagination, though Liesel and Max's relationship was what brought me the most pleasure from this story. I found the descriptions of the clouds lovely and the thought of the brightness of the stars blinding Max was rather poignant.
It was definitely interesting reading a story from the German aspect of WWII. Though I am doubtful that any story relating to the atrocities of the Holocaust can actually be termed "accessible," I thought Zusak did a great job of describing what one girl's life during that period could've encompassed. I loved her friendship with Rudy and the characters in the neighborhood were perfect--every neighborhood has people like each of them.
The most meaningful part of this book to me was the way it nailed the wonders of being a reader. Mark Twain once said, "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them." Liesel was on a mission to learn to read and her journey of learning and then of actually reading certain stories defined a lot of her experiences. Reading is powerful, just look at how much influence Hitler had with Mein Kampf. (sorry to state the obvious) Not a day goes by that I don't think of at least one idea from a book I've read or about what I want to read next. There is an unlimited supply of adventures out there for those that are looking for something--I'm only saddened by the fact that more people don't realize what they are missing.