Friday, October 2, 2009

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

The Book Thief is arguably the best book I've read this year. A description from Australian writer Markus Zusak's website:

Liesel Meminger is only nine years old when she is taken to live with the Hubermanns, a foster family, on Himmel Street in Molching, Germany, in the late 1930s. She arrives with few possessions, but among them is The Grave Digger’s Handbook, a book that she stole from her brother’s burial place. During the years that Liesel lives with the Hubermanns, Hitler becomes more powerful, life on Himmel Street becomes more fearful, and Liesel becomes a fullfledged book thief. She rescues books from Nazi book-burnings and steals from the library of the mayor. Liesel is illiterate when she steals her fi rst book, but Hans Hubermann uses her prized books to teach her to read. This is a story of courage, friendship, love, survival, death, and grief. This is Liesel’s life on Himmel Street, told from Death’s point of view.

Markus Zusak's prose is pure poetry and his imagery highly evocative. I've read excellent books set in Nazi Germany before, but none have juxtaposed the brutality of the time with the beauty of individual resistance as well as this one. For more of Zusak's writing, try I am the Messenger.