The Norman Transcript

N-town reviews

October 11, 2013

Book review: The Book Thief brings engaging surprises

NORMAN — Book: The Book Thief (2005, Alfred A. Knopf)

Author: Markus Zusak

Why you should read: With 41 weeks gracing the NY Times Best Seller Young Adult list, Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief,” currently at No. 4, encompasses a unique and interesting story of a young girl and her fascination with books she steals. What comes as a shocking and intriguing surprise is that the narrator is not who one might expect in a novel meant for young readers: Death. The omniscient “reaper” may not be a typical voice, but it’s fitting nonetheless, engaging the readers head on.

“I could introduce myself properly, but it’s not really necessary. You will know me well enough and soon enough, depending on a diverse range of variables. It suffices to say that at some point and time, I will be standing over you, as genially as possible.”

Set in Germany at the time of World War II, Liesel Meminger loses her brother in the first few pages, her mother leaves, and Liesel is sent to live with a foster family at 9 years old in Mulching, near Munich. The first book she steals is “The Grave Digger’s Handbook,” found near the grave site of her brother. Since she isn’t able to read yet, Liesel’s foster father uses it as sort of a bedtime story, reading to her at night. He shows her just how powerful words can be. During the journey through the novel, Liesel’s love of books helps her make new friends over the years, with everything carefully watched by Death, of course.

This novel, while targeted for young readers, is appropriate for adults as well. More sophisticated readers, both young and old, will most likely find more enjoyment with it, for all its powerful language and historic subject matter. And yet the underlying innocence is not overlooked. For those who share a love of words and passion for books, this novel won’t disappoint. With its widespread popularity, “The Book Thief” has also been adapted to the big screen, and is set to be released in theaters Nov. 15.

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