I had to do a fair old bit of digging around in the basement to find a blog post I wrote eight years ago about The Book Thief by Australian author Markus Zusak. I clearly remember reading that the book had won a US prize but wasn't yet published in the UK, so I had ordered a hardback copy from the US before it was ever heard of here. This is some of what I wrote at the time (the rest is rather embarrassing gush and therefore best left in the basement) with just some of my old vernacular evident...
First thing you need to know is that this is a book infused with sadness and hope in equal measure and it is narrated most unusually by Death.
Death tells the story of a young foster girl, Liesel Meminger living in Munich in the midst of Nazi Germany.Life is harsh but Liesel soon learns that words and more importantly books are her life and she starts to steal them firstly from the mass bonfires and then from the library of the local Mayor and his wife.Slowly she learns to read and shares the books with neighbours during bombing raids but also very movingly with the Jewish man they are hiding in their basement.In turn he writes a book for Liesel which you get to read within the pages of this book, be prepared for it to do you up like a kipper.
It's all a complete emotional roller-coaster of a book and must join the canon of excellent books that depict the war through the eyes of children. More about those in another post but meanwhile somehow there's no way round it, I can't recommend The Book Thief, highly enough, no bracing or gritting of teeth required, it's a book that takes very good care of you.
Uplifting, life affirming and memorable.
Nothing to do with me, but the book was then a huge success here too and though I had all but forgotten the minute detail, I hadn't forgotten what a memorable and moving read it had been, so when the Kayaker arrived with the DVD of the recent film I was delighted...and a little nervous.
Does the film ever match up to the memory of the book...
Would the characters be those my imagination expected... Max and Papa had a special place.
How about the setting...
...and the book, the all important book.
We settled down to watch it on my birthday evening (maybe there were jollier films for a birthday) and I have to say, if I had any expectations it more than matched and then exceeded them.
The characters felt perfect, the setting just right, the tensions and fears perfectly pitched, the atmosphere of war clearly rendered, and the ending... yes, the film version takes good care of you too.
But they did something different with Max's book surely?
And wasn't the book he wrote for Liesel something very special...or have I misremembered that aspect.
I keep wondering whether my assessment is coloured by the time lapse betwixt reading the book and seeing the film...I can't decide.
Has anyone else read The Book Thief and seen the film, if so what is the verdict?