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Monday, October 31, 2011

Horror Told Beautifully: Review of "The Book Thief"

Posted by EPL patron and guest blogger Irwin S.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is beautifully written.  The author has command of the language and uses it most effectively.  In the opning pages, the protagonist Leisel (age nine) sees her younger brother die, while on a train taking them to a foster home in southern Germany.  It is 1939, Hitler is in power.  Leisel's foster parents are not Nazis and suffer greatly therefore.  Fear, hunger, and hate are recurring themes.  Nevertheless, the book, narrated by Death, is a compelling story with complex and fascinating characters.  The book is about love and hate, survival and death, friendship and cruelty.  Loyalty is a theme and there is surprisingly little betrayal, given the story's background. 

The town is bombed by the allies, but is it never clear whether it is American planes or British.  How could the characters know, since they were hiding in their basements?  While they huddled, terrified, Leisel read to them from her stolen books.  She loves the words in her books and hates the words of Hitler, which he uses to manipulate his followers. She writes her story, calling it "The Book Thief, the last line of which is " I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right."  Our narrator read her book and found that she had indeed, "made them right."

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