Shortlisted for the British Book Awards, Newcomer of the Year, 2008.
"It's just a small story, really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery...."
This novel is narrated in the all-knowing, matter-of-fact voice of Death, who witnesses the story of the citizens of Molching.
When nine-year-old Liesel arrives outside the boxlike house of her new foster parents at 33 Himmel Street, she refuses to get out of the car. Liesel has been separated from her parents, "Kommunists", forever, and at the burial of her little brother, she steals a gravedigger's instruction manual, which she can't read. It is the beginning of her illustrious career.
In the care of the Hubermans, Liesel befriends blond-haired Rudy Steiner, a neighbour obsessed with Jesse Owens, and the mayor's wife, who hides from despair in her library. Together, Liesel and Rudy steal books - from Nazi book-burning piles, from the mayor's library, from the rich people for whom her foster mother does the ironing. In time, they take in a Jewish boxer, Max, who reads with Liesel in the basement.
By 1943, the Allied bombs are falling, and the sirens begin to wail. Liesel shares her books in the air-raid shelters. But one day in the life of Himmel Street, the wail of the sirens comes too late.
A life-changing tale of the cruel twists of fate and the coincidences on which all our lives hinge, this is also a joyous look at how books can nourish the soul. Its uplifting ending will make listeners weep.
"Markus Zusak's The Book Thief is told in the first person by Death. In print this was a bit coy, but it becomes compelling spoken in the rich tones of Allan Cordunner... What takes this further than many accounts of Nazi atrocities is the quirky Liesel and her friend Rudi who beg, borrow and steal their way into the world of books that their rulers want to control. Zusak's style is mannered, but heard aloud has the haunting quality of poetry." (The Times)
"Allan Corduner is perfectly voiced as the narrator, who visits the 9-year-old book thief, whose parents have been sent to a concentration camp, three times. It¿s Zusak¿s first adult novel and it¿s breathtaking." (Daily Express)
"Absorbing and searing." (Washington Post)
"Zusak makes his ostensibly gloomy subject bearable in the same way Kurt Vonnegut did in Slaughterhouse-Five, with grim, darkly consoling humour." (Time)
"Zusak's playfulness with language leavens the horror and makes the theme more resonant: words can save your life....It's a measure of how successfully Zusak has humanized these characters that even though we know they are doomed, it's no less devastating when Death finally reaches them." (Publishers Weekly)
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one of the best books I've read so far
- Z. Anneline