The Book Thief

The Book Thief

Once upon a time long, long ago (when we lived in Sydney) I worked with a lovely lady named Sally. Sally often spoke of the books she had been reading and when I bemoaned the fact I hadn’t read anything in ages, she encouraged me to get back into it and suggested books she thought I might enjoy. I trusted Sally’s opinion and knew that if she enjoyed them, I most probably would too, but for whatever reason I just wasn’t in a reading state of mind. I think during the entire two years we lived in Sydney all I managed to read was Wuthering Heights and a few Charlaine Harris books! Quite sad really.

Even though I didn’t read them then and there, I did make a mental note of the books Sally suggested. One that always stuck out in my memory was The Book Thief. Sally had recommended it a few times. After we left Sydney and I started reading a little more, every now and then I’d think of The Book Thief, yet somehow still never managed to get to it. Then in April this year I was looking for a present for my mum’s birthday, wandering about a book shop in Bendigo stroking all the lovely spines and drinking in that gorgeous book smell, when I saw it. The Book Thief. That’s what I’d get my mum! Sally said it was good, so it must be.

A few months later I asked mum if she had read it and she told me she hadn’t. Then earlier this month we were watching First Tuesday Book Club’s 10 Aussie Books to Read before you Die special and there it was again. It came second on the list. “Oh The Book Thief!” I said. “Did you ever get around to reading it it?” Mum then confessed she had tried but hadn’t been able to get into it, so had given up. Suddenly overcome with curiosity I decided the time had finally come. It simply needed to be read. I started that night.

I have to admit I struggled with the unconventional style in the first couple of chapters of The Book Thief (and sometimes the narrator’s little asides bothered me, even at the end) but if the people of Australia loved it and (more importantly) if Sally loved it, I figured it had to be worth sticking with. And gosh, I’m so glad I did! The Book Thief is the most moving book I’ve read in quite some time and I know it’s going to stay with me for years to come.

The story, narrated by death, and set in Nazi Germany follows the story of a young girl named Liesel. “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….”

If you need a happy ending The Book Thief probably isn’t for you. The characters are endearingly flawed, human and real. You desperately want everything to be ok for everyone but of course, this is Nazi Germany. How can it? The Book Thief reminds us that in war, civilians of all sides are victims.

Despite the tragic nature of the story, The Book Thief isn’t morbid. It is written with grace and empathy, sprinkled with heart warming moments and gentle humour. Somehow it’s simultaneously both heartbreaking and wonderfully uplifting. Author Markus Zusak is a gifted writer and his prose is beautifully poetic, lyrical and poignant.  The Book Thief is not a light, fast read. It is a book to treasure, to ponder, to savour. It’s a story that almost hurts to read, but you find yourself relishing ever bittersweet word anyway. I suppose it’s terribly sentimental, but then I like sentimental!

I just wish I’d listened to Sally sooner.

Have you read The Book Thief? What did you think? Or maybe you’ve read something else wonderful lately? Do tell me!

Katie x

PS Happy “End of the World Day”! It looks like we are safe after all ;)

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Katie

About Katie

Katie is a tea drinking, jewellery making, op-shopping daydreamer. Katie likes vintage dresses, Pictionary, doilies and colourful tights.

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25 Responses to “The Book Thief”

  1. Louise December 21, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    I bought this book from an op shop a while ago but it’s been sitting unread on my shelf for a while. I need a new book to read over the Christmas break, so I think it’s about time I gave it a go

  2. Anna December 21, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    The Book Thief is my all time favourite book, I keep having to buy more and more copies of it because I keep giving my copies to people! Really love your review of it :)

  3. Carly December 21, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    great review, I read this one a couple of years ago following a really glowing review and I felt like I couldn’t ‘connect’ with the story at first it but when I did it was a book that stayed with me and I even cried at the end, it’s one of those I didn’t love at first but wanted to read it again straight away as I enjoyed it so much at the end

    • Katie
      Katie December 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

      I know exactly what you mean Carly. I didn’t really connect with the book until I was about a third of the way through, but I’m SO glad I stuck with it! :)

  4. Miss Piggy December 21, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    I loved The Book Thief and was lucky enough to have the author come to a bookclub that I was a member of for awhile – he was a great speaker, really funny and enjoyable to listen to. He has other books that I’ve not gotten around to reading…yet.

    • Katie
      Katie December 22, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

      Oh, you lucky thing! What a fantastic experience! :)

  5. Laura December 21, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

    I would probably say I loved The Book Thief. I started out loving it. I was not happy with the ending and felt it very abrupt, but after digesting it, there really was no other appropriate ending was there? Whenever I hear an accordion, I think of that book.

  6. sian December 22, 2012 at 2:23 am #

    hi! i havent read the book thief tho do have a copy somewhere – must get round to it!! i adore reading.. are you on goodreads? that’s great for suggestions.
    some of my favourite reads this year were ‘wild’ by cheryl strayed,’we have always lived in the castle’ by shirley jackson, ‘cassandra at the wedding’ by dorothy baker and ‘the fault in our stars’ by john green.

    • Katie
      Katie December 22, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

      Oh, I will have to check those books out. Thank you for the suggestions Sian! x

  7. lengsel December 22, 2012 at 5:12 am #

    I loved that book. I first read it in norwegian (as that is my language ;) ) but I recently bought it for my amazon Kindle, and I plan to read it in english :). I truly really loved it. Its been a couple of years since I read it, but it still stays with me. After i finished it i almost felt depressed. I felt sad and empty, tried reading other books, but couldnt, it was like i was grieving. A wonderful wonderful book.

    • Katie
      Katie December 22, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

      I can really relate to your comment Lengsel! I feel l go through a little stage of grieving every time I finish a really good book, but it was particularly intense after reading The Book Thief. It is so very moving… xx

  8. Kasey December 22, 2012 at 6:33 am #

    I am ALWAYS reading, so thanks for the suggestion! I’ve heard of this book a few times but never knew anything about it.

  9. Rita@thissortaoldlife December 22, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    I had the same experience with The Book Thief. I’m not sure what makes it so hard to get into to, but it is so worth staying with it unless it grabs hold.

  10. Abigail December 22, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    I read this book several years ago and i still remember the way i felt when reading it, several specific events, and the message of the book. Im glad you stuck with it! He also has a great book called I am the Messenger, it is definitly worth trying! I loved it too.

    • Katie
      Katie December 22, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

      I have heard I am the Messenger is good! I’m definitely adding it to my list :)

  11. Sara December 22, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    I absolutely LOVE The Book Thief! Like you, it was suggested to me several years before I got around to reading it. But, when I finally read it, I couldn’t put it down. Now, I suggest it to everyone! Great review!

  12. jenxo December 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    I read it the week before the top 10 came out….I really struggled for the first few chapters too, until it clicked about death…..I couldnt put it down. it stayed with me for a long time too…

    wishing you both a Merry Christmas and congratulations on your book and the write up in the addy today :) jen

    • Katie
      Katie December 22, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

      Thanks so much Jen! Merry Christmas to you too! x

  13. cassie December 22, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    Yup Ive read The Book Thief! Great read, at my brothers recommendation. I am an avid reader! I just read Lovely Bones which is a good read (but different too – like the book thief) and others I like are ‘Room’, which is written in the eyes of a 5 year old, ‘Little Coffee shop in Kabul’, “Shes come undone’, ‘Secret Life of Bees’ was great!, Also very popular but muchly enjoyed by me was “The Help’, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and my all time favourite that I read in school and have reread over and over is Australia’s Albert Faceys autobiography ‘A Fortunate Life”. Sorry Ive rambled on a bit! Enjoy turning those pages – I love a good read. Cassie

    • Katie
      Katie December 22, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

      Hi Cassie! I actually have both Lovely Bones and Secret Life of Bees sitting in a box of books, waiting to be read! And I’d love to read A Fortunate Life because I’ve heard to much about it. I have read both The Help and Eat, Pray, Love. The Help is actually one of my favourites! And I will have to add your other suggestions to my list :)

  14. JessB December 23, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    Oh, I love The Book Thief! I was working in a bookstore when it was released, and it was mandatory reading for all of us – and I’m so glad!

    You’re right, it’s not a happy ending, but if you are in the mood to work through that, it really is simply beautiful. I’m really glad you loved it too, Katie!

  15. Jen December 27, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    The Book Thief is one of my favourite books ever!! Pretty much the only book to have ever made me cry. There were rumours they were making it into a film, but it doesn’t seem to have happened. Glad you enjoyed it xx

  16. eliza December 29, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    i llllloved the book thief. similar to you, it had to be recommended to me multiple times by various people before i finally just picked it up.

    i really liked death as the narrator. at the very beginning, where it was disjointed while all of the setup was happening, i was quite frustrated with it, but i loved his sad, wry narration, and i really appreciated the small amount of emotional distance this technique granted.

    when i first finished reading the book, i thought ‘well, that was pretty good.’ but as time has gone on, and i’ve thought about and discussed the themes, the characters, and the beautiful human moments in that book, my opinion has raised to far better than pretty good. this is a fantastic book.

    (and even now, if i start to think of rosa sitting up at night with the piano accordian… oh, man, i’m getting misty-eyed over here.)

  17. Emily December 30, 2012 at 3:50 am #

    I read this book a few months ago, and I really enjoyed it! That period of history is really captivating to me, and I really enjoyed the author’s take on it. I felt like it showed a different side than most books and movies about WWII in Germany, and I totally fell in love with the characters (especially Rudy).

  18. Sal January 8, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Oh, Katie, what a lovely review! I’m so glad you finally read it and enjoyed it. I was thinking of you on my way in to work this morning and thinking it was high time I got in touch – and then there was an email from Jason R linking to this – hooray! Lots of love to you xo

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