Book 48: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My wife’s been on me to read this one for years. Probably close to a decade in fact.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I tend to run a mile from World War 2 novels. I get it: it’s going to be really awful and everyone’s going to die. Especially in a book narrated by Death himself.

Of course as anyone who’s read this little gem from Australian author Markus Zusak knows, it’s not some relentlessly grim or horrible affair. It’s a novel about the love of family, quiet defiance and books themselves. It’s soft and tender, even when the bodies begin piling up.

The story focuses on Leisel Memminger, a teenage girl who deals with the war by losing herself in books; and in the act of stealing them.

In many ways it’s strikingly similar to that other WW2 book I read this year, Anthony Doerr’s All The Light You Cannot See. But where Doerr’s book was powerful despite its ornate langauge, Zusak’s is powerful precisely because of its simplicity. It’s so subtle you don’t even realise how much emotional power is building until the book’s final devastating – but also cathartic – moments.

Next: a double feature

Author: adamgartrell

Political journalist drowning in books

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