Book Shelf: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Looking at the cover of Sydney based author Markus Zusak's latest novel The Book Thief  (Picador), it is accurate to predict it won't be a light-hearted affair. The saying 'never judge a book by its cover' is all fair and true, however, admittedly, it is what caught my eye in the first place. After picking it up and turning it over in my hands to read the publisher's blurb, I was immediately gripped and could do nothing else but purchase the mysterious novel.

Released to our bookstores in 2005, it is possible you have already read this auspicious novel. Perhaps you are wondering why I am reviewing a book that has been available to us for quite some time. The answer simply being that in my experience it is one of those rare books (for me, anyhow) that has the ability, like the old cliché says, 'to change your life'.

'Death', with its own persona, tells us the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl who is sent with her younger brother to live with foster parents in Nazi Germany, in a town called Molching (deceptively pronounced as Molking). However, tragedy strikes as her brother dies on the way to their new home and Liesel is forced to start this unfamiliar life on her own.

By her brother's graveside she eyes a book that has been dropped in the snow by one of the grave diggers. Without too much thought she picks up the book and hides it amongst the layers of clothes that adorn her body; this book becoming the only remaining link to her deceased brother.  Thus follows a love affair with words and books - a dangerous fixation during the reign of Hitler.
An extremely close bond is formed between Liesel and her foster father and the tale of their friendship is heartwarming. Along the way we become well acquainted with other characters, some with whom we also see a special bond form. None quite so strong as her friendship with the Jewish man the family takes into hiding, Max Vandenburg.

No better description can be made for Zusak's narrative as the advice Gustave Flaubert gave to his budding apprentice Guy de Maupassant: "There is a part of everything which is unexplored, because we are accustomed to using our eyes only in association with the memory of what people before us have thought of the thing we are looking at. Even the smallest thing has something in it which is unknown. We must find it." 

The manner of Zusak's distinctive style brings an almost poetical atmosphere to the narrative and portrays an abstract view of the times and challenges of a much illustrated period of history. Zusak has an individualistic style and this work will leave you wanting plenty more. A book which may not be everyone's cup of tea, there is no denying the talent that is shown through Zusak's most recent novel, The Book Thief.  

Brooke @ Girl With a Satchel.


Lesley said...

This would have to be one of my all time favourite books - so powerful and beautifully told.