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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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I knew it was a book; books have a distinct feeling in your hands no matter what they have been wrapped in, a feeling of malleable weightiness – heavy with promise.
I removed the sticky tape, inching it away in an attempt to preserve the Christmas trappings but it refused to cooperate and my impatience got the better off me until I was tearing right through the paper, ripping it into great chunks of confetti and The Book Thief fell into my hands. I stroked the cover and the spine, cradling Liesel Meminger in my reluctant palms.
The Book Thief, as far as my limited knowledge understood, was about a girl who stole books in Nazi Germany.
Having just received the DVD of Schindler’s List and with a stack of other holocaust novels already stored in my head, I wasn’t quite sure whether I could face much more honest horror. The Women in Black is all very well, lurking in her fantastical shadows but when you know that a haunting character’s story was real and photocopied thousands, perhaps millions of times onto other peoples’ pasts, the atrocities never quite leave you.
With the alternative option being a 6th instalment of predictable teenage spy fiction from the onslaught of my brother’s hand-me-downs, I set to work. Work isn’t the right word; it makes it the novel sound like a chore. I must confess, gulped it down, my reservations over before Liesel Meminger had really begun and within two days the whole 554 page life was resting uncomfortably in my brain’s digestive system. Devoured.
The truth about Markus Zusak’s novel is that it is a masterpiece, quite apart from the power of the statements it contains, the meticulously crafted language is hauntingly expressive and as close to magic as printer’s ink can reach. Most writers use words, Zusak celebrates words: he strings them together so comprehensively and creatively that they perfectly understand the beauty of nature, the roughness of speech and the throb of every emotion.
As I sat with the devoured novel, I shook it as though hoping more words would fall from its covers into my hungry lap. I wanted them to keep coming and yes, they were all still there between the pages, but they’d never be quite the same as that first time. I had fallen in love with a silver eyed accordionist, and a crumpled cardboard woman, and a boy with hair the colour of lemons but they were all forever shattered in the sacrilege of the End of the World.
If I could put one book into anyone’s hands it would be this hugely poignant work of art.



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