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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Darkmatters Review - The Book Thief

The Book Thief
Markus Zusak

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

“She leaned down and looked at his lifeless face and Liesel kissed her best friend, Rudy Steiner, soft and true on his lips. He tasted dusty and sweet. He tasted like the regret in the shadows of trees and in the glow of the anarchist’s suit collection. She kissed him long and soft, and when she pulled herself away, she touched his mouth with her fingers. Her hands were trembling, her lips were fleshy, and she leaned in once more, this time losing control and misjudging it. Their teeth collided on the demolished world of Himmel Street.” The Book Thief page 536

Sometimes you read a book that you know nothing about… When my eldest son was given a copy of The Book Thief he suggested I read it as he was already reading something. I liked the image on the cover of death dancing with a girl (the book thief herself as it turns out) so gave it a go.

This is a slow burn and build up of a novel which is worthy of your perseverance as by the end you’ll have been deeply moved, entertained and challenged by the tale of young Liesel, her adopted family, her friends and her experiences of the second world war in Nazi Germany.
The plight of the Jews in Germany at that dark time in history is interwoven with the coming of age tale of the titular book thief. The story is told by Death himself but this is no Terry Pratchett Discworld, here Death is a narrator who is detached enough to record our inhumanity and express his lack of understanding at why we humans act as we do,

The ponderous pace builds up a beautifully balanced and highly engaging narrative, Zusak uses clever devices such as mini previews of each chapter (which can not always be trusted).
Liesel who is the book thieving rascal of the title charts her relationships with her adoptive parents – hardship and survival go hand in hand – never more so than when the family hide Max (a Jew on the run) in their basement at great personal risk to themselves. The tangible sense of danger is expertly woven through the narrative, this really isn’t a happy tale and you can sense some form of tragedy on its way as the war escalates and the Allies start bombing Liesel’s town. Although, having said that there are some moments of pure joy that stand out all the more for the bleak backdrop against which they are experienced.

As with all great books, there are some unforgettable scenes such as when Liesel and her friend Rudy take bread and try to feed a line of Jew being marched through the streets to a concentration camp. Scenes like this blend seemlessly with Liesel's thieving escapades, her father's tours of duty and her mother's struggle to keep everything going... These are characters that you'll remember for some time.

The Book Thief is book which everyone should read – it is an unsettling and thought-provoking novel, buy beg or steal yourself a copy.

Darkmatters final rating of: öööööööö (8 - a compelling if slow moving modern day classic)

Film news - Fox 2000 has bought the rights to The Book Thief - it's status is 'in production'...

"I think Dakota Fanning would make a good Liesel - she's cheeky enough!"

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