AudioBook Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
So I was late to the party again with this title, and actually my initial assumptions about this being ‘yet another’ story of Nazi Era Germany. Honestly, the perspective and construct of this story is so unique and different, that it has been added to my list of ‘your child should read/ see’ this list of books and films that I believe provide a perspective on history that is often lacking in textbooks.
Firstly, the main narration is provided by death. Yes, Death. His retelling of the story, providing a perspective that ranges from ‘oh what fools these mortals be’ to actual moments where his occupation feels like a burden. A rather tricky narrator to be sure, but Zusak uses the character to full effect, giving a sense of foreboding without being maudlin. In the audio format, the narration of Allan Corduner is simply spectacular, as he adds the emotional component to Death’s character, a sense of ennui with a been-there-done-that touch of boredom, while never seeming to take delight in the harvesting.
When the blurb says it is just a ‘small story really’, that wholly discounts the joys within: From Liesel and her Papa’s relationship, her slow discovery of the joys within books and her covetous desire to have books, to her friend Rudy who is determined to become Jesse Owens: there is love and loss and innocence shattered. Focusing on just a small group of people who are surviving and existing despite horrible circumstances.
This combination of author and narrator is what all audio versions should strive to be: Zusak has bent, twisted, combined and placed words with such care that they seemingly could not have been used any other way. Adding Allan Corduner, a British actor to narrate the book was a genius move: his ability to massage the words and bring forth their meaning and subtext without overarching emotive emphasis, and his facility for accent and voice give each of the characters a distinct appearance that couldn’t be anything else. It is truly a treat to find narration that so perfectly suits the text, and brings the emotion of the moment to the forefront, enhancing the listen.
I am on my fifth listen of this story: each one brings a new element forward, making me see more of the story than I did the time before, and it never gets old. That is, for me, a signal that this is an important story: one suitable for high school aged readers, although some mature middle grade readers may find the story attractive. As always, with every book that deals with the more unsavory facts of human behavior, I would suggest that parents take a listen or a read of the title as well: surprisingly despite the setting, there is a solid hopeful thread that manages to follow the book from beginning to end.
I purchased an Audiobook copy of the title for my own library. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Stars: Overall 5 Narration 5 Story 5
Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Genre: Children's Literature, Historical Fiction, Teen Reads
Narrator: Allan Corduner
Published by: Listening Library
Audio Length: 13 Hours: 56 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ AllRomance ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦Audible ♦Tantor Audio
About the Book:
It's just a small story really, about, among other things, a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist: books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids - as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.