Posts Tagged ‘Markus Zusak’

thebookthiefIt is not very often in my experience that you find a book and the movie made from it both outstanding, but in the case of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, I do. I just finished reading it for the second time … my first a couple years ago, but after seeing the film, I dove back in and read it again, and enjoyed it even more.

The Book Thief is promoted as a YA novel, but it cannot help but reach the heart of any reading adult. Told over a period of about 5 years, the story takes place in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power. The heroine, Liesel, is being surrendered, along with her brother, to another family to foster as the mother cannot afford their care. The sickly brother passes away on the train ride to Molching, is buried in a patch of snowy land alongside that town’s train station. And this is where the book thief, Liesel, steals her first book.

The tale that follows is about Liesel’s life with her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, her new and very dear friend, Rudy, and Max, the Jew the Hubermann’s come to hide in their basement. And, of course, it is about Liesel’s learning to read and her stealing books.

There are two factors that set this book apart from so many others. First is Zusak’s exquisite use of language; the book must be read to truly appreciate the author’s brilliance with words. Second is the narrator … Death. Not creepy Death of some stereotypic kind, but a narrator who shares what it is like to gather souls endlessly; how he is present and exhausted at every war; how he sometimes must carry the souls of numerous adults at once, perhaps over his shoulder, but how he always carries children in his arms. His experience of what it is like to be a gatherer of souls is interspersed but does not dominate his third-person narrative of Liesel and those about her.

Because of this unique take on events, the reader is made aware of this shameful period of history in a way that is like no other I’ve ever read. Zusak develops such compassion for his characters, for the Germans, the Jews they are brainwashed to despise, and even many of the soldiers. And shining in the middle of it all is a little girl, who despite losing those she loves time after time, has the courage and compassion to read to all those huddling in a neighbor’s basement during an air raid, who still can risk sneaking into the wealthy mayor’s house to steal a book, giving her one of the true joys she comes to know, reading.

In the movie, Geoffrey Rush and Emma Watson are outstanding as Hans and Rosa, (Papa and Mama). Liesel is played by a newcomer, Sophie Nelisse, one of literally hundreds of girls who auditioned for the part, and she is perfect.

If you were to choose between reading the book or seeing the movie … I can only recommend both, in whatever order suits you. I cannot imagine you will be disappointed. You can visit The Book Thief‘s official website, (click through the opening page and go to videos, upper left or find additional trailers/videos here), and perhaps gain a taste of the book. Importantly, the author was thrilled with the movie rendition of his book. More importantly, I cannot imagine you reading this book, seeing this movie, and not being touched to the core.

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