Monday, 5 December 2011

Guest Book Review

The Book Thief ~ by Markus Zusak 

There are so many reasons why I just LOVE this book:  the characters... the characters … the characters...  
They are so beautifully drawn, so memorable: a boy who paints his face black and runs like Jesse Owens; a neighbour who spits on the door every time she passes; a mayor’s wife who silently sits in a library missing her son; Alex Steiner, alone in his tailor's shop, missing his whole family; neighbours crowded together in the basement, listening to a little girl reading a story. 
Like the best loved creations of Charles Dickens, each of Zusak’s characters have a visual symbol that we associate with only them.  Consider Max, hair like feathers or twigs; Mama, a wardrobe; Papa, a silver eyed accordion; Rudy, with hair the colour of lemons; Ilsa, her fluffy hair and bath robe; and Alex Steiner, a wooden man, with hair like splinters.  Their descriptions are so very visual that these characters are etched into our memories. I cannot think of Rudy without a lump forming in my throat, or Hans, wonderful, darling papa, without the distant sound of an accordion playing or the scent of tobacco rising somewhere in my mind. Even tough, booming Rosa crept under my skin and as for Liesel, I think I will always carry a piece of her with me, most noticeably present whenever I visit a library.
If you read the book blurb and learn, with horror, that Death is the narrator, please fear not.  He is warm, considerate and simply charming.  He seems to love the characters as much as we do.  He, too, is a book-lover, an idea which really made me smile. How could we fail to like a fellow book-lover?  He has re-read Liesel’s story thousands of times.  In fact, he is a rescuer of books!  
We see him peeking over people’s shoulders, picking up parts of their stories and returning to them over the years, just to find out how their stories end.  He cannot resist a good tale and gently leads us through the plot, holding our hand at the sad bits and delighting in the joy of human laughter.
'The Book Thief' is easily one of the best books I’ve read in years.  Indeed, Zusak has given me a treasure and as such I will place it at eye-level in my book case, so I can catch glimpses of it as I pass, hearing the soft sigh of an accordion and knowing that it is close at hand whenever I feel the need to visit to Liesel or Rudy, and part-take in a little book thievery of my own. 
  By Michelle Burrowes, English Department, The High School, Dublin

['The Book Thief' is a text on the Leaving Certificate English Examination 2013]

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