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The Book Thief

The Book Thief 13

Film Tie-In

by Markus Zusak
Publication Date: 01/11/2013
4/5 Rating 13 Reviews
RRP  $19.99 $17.75

The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller. Over eight million copies sold.

"Brilliant and hugely ambitious ... the kind of book that can be life changing" The New York Times


It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath.

Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.

So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found. But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down.

The Book Thief is a story about the power of words to make worlds. In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

Contemporary fiction
Publication Date:
Pan Macmillan Australia
Country of origin:
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Markus Zusak

Australian author Markus Zusak grew up hearing stories about Nazi Germany, about the bombing of Munich and about Jews being marched through his mother’s small, German town.

He always knew it was a story he wanted to tell. At the age of 30, Zusak has already asserted himself as one of today’s most innovative and poetic novelists.

With the publication of The Book Thief, he has been dubbed a ‘literary phenomenon’ by Australian and US critics.

Zusak is the award-winning author of four previous books for young adults: The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, Getting the Girl, and I Am the Messenger, recipient of a 2006 Printz Honor for excellence in young adult literature. He lives in Sydney.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating

4 / 5 (13 Ratings)
5 stars (8)
4 stars (2)
3 stars (2)
2 stars (1)
1 stars (0)

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  • Promising but too prententious, but an ending that (almost) makes up for it

    by on

    I had read many great things about this book from several family members with similar taste in books to myself, so immediately I was intrigued. What sealed the deal was its unlikely narrator (Death) and it being Holocaust fiction that doesn't focus on concentration camps. Alas, I began the book with high expectations that promptly crumbled. There were several analogies that were too out there, including one about how a plane crashed and the sky turned charcoal, and then someone laid a teddy bear next to the dead body. Unfortunately, I had to flick ahead to get into the plot (the book is well over 500 pages), and the plot, while page-turning, was very thin and bloated. Several paragraphs could easily have been condensed into a matter of lines and the story would have flowed better. What I loved about it was the main character, Liesel Meminger, and her relationships with the various people around her, most notably Max Vandenburg, the Jew that the Meminger's concealed in their basement. Another thing that was amazing about this book, that in fact I'm giving the book an extra star for as we speak, was the character development. From Liesel's inosence at the beginning, she gets moulded and changed right through to the heartbreaking climax. The book's final chapters were some of the best writing I've ever read, but it still unfortunately didn't make up for the terrible beginning. I'm eagerly awaiting the movie release, particularly to see how they portray Death. Exact rating: 2.5/5

  • very moving

    by on

    The Book Thief is the fifth novel by Australian author, Markus Zusak. The setting is Nazi Germany just before the start of World War Two, through to 1943, and the story is narrated by Death. Death was decidedly overworked during the war, but he informs the reader that he saw young Liesel Meminger three times in those years before he finally took her much later. Liesel comes to 33 Himmel Strasse in Molchen to foster parents Rosa and Hans Hubermann, having just lost her younger brother, Werner to Deaths grasp. Cranky Rosa keeps the family fed with her washing and ironing service while kind Hans paints when it is needed, plays the accordion and teaches Liesel to read, all on the background of deprivation, anxiety and fear that is wartime Germany. The anxiety level rises when Max Vandenburg, a Jew, comes to hide in the basement. But the presence of this unassuming man also helps to expand Liesels experience of reading and of life. With her best friend, Rudy Steiner, Liesel embarks on a career of thievery, starting with apples but graduating, eventually, to books from the Mayors library, although her first books are acquired in quite a different manner. This much-awarded, best-selling novel looks at war from a different perspective: the effects it has on ordinary people trying to lead ordinary lives in an ordinary town. While the Fuhrer and Mein Kampf play integral parts, illustrating the use of words for evil, the emphasis is on the struggle of the common man (and woman) to do the right thing in a dangerous environment. Zusaks characters have depth and appeal (even cranky Rosa): the banter between them often lifts the tension from serious moments with some quite black humour. Zusak is skilful with his imagery and wordplay: He was teenage tall and had a long neck. Pimples gathered in peer groups on his face. and She imagined the sound of a police siren throwing itself forward and reeling itself in. Collecting itself. are just two examples. The illustrations by Trudy White are a charming enhancement to the text. This novel has brutality, but it also has beauty. The narration style may take a little getting used to, but the reader who perseveres is rewarded with a wonderful experience. Very moving.

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