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Summary

Brought to life by the rich tone of narrator Allan Corduner's voice, The Book Thief is one audiobook that will stay lodged in your mind long after the final word has been spoken.

Shortlisted for the British Book Awards, Newcomer of the Year, 2008.

"It's just a small story, really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery...."

This novel is narrated in the all-knowing, matter-of-fact voice of Death, who witnesses the story of the citizens of Molching.

When nine-year-old Liesel arrives outside the boxlike house of her new foster parents at 33 Himmel Street, she refuses to get out of the car. Liesel has been separated from her parents, "Kommunists", forever, and at the burial of her little brother, she steals a gravedigger's instruction manual, which she can't read. It is the beginning of her illustrious career.

In the care of the Hubermans, Liesel befriends blond-haired Rudy Steiner, a neighbour obsessed with Jesse Owens, and the mayor's wife, who hides from despair in her library. Together, Liesel and Rudy steal books - from Nazi book-burning piles, from the mayor's library, from the rich people for whom her foster mother does the ironing. In time, they take in a Jewish boxer, Max, who reads with Liesel in the basement.

By 1943, the Allied bombs are falling, and the sirens begin to wail. Liesel shares her books in the air-raid shelters. But one day in the life of Himmel Street, the wail of the sirens comes too late.

A life-changing tale of the cruel twists of fate and the coincidences on which all our lives hinge, this is also a joyous look at how books can nourish the soul. Its uplifting ending will make listeners weep.

©2006 Markus Zusak (P)2014 Random House AudioBooks

Critic reviews

"Markus Zusak's The Book Thief is told in the first person by Death. In print this was a bit coy, but it becomes compelling spoken in the rich tones of Allan Cordunner... What takes this further than many accounts of Nazi atrocities is the quirky Liesel and her friend Rudi who beg, borrow and steal their way into the world of books that their rulers want to control. Zusak's style is mannered, but heard aloud has the haunting quality of poetry." ( The Times)
"Allan Corduner is perfectly voiced as the narrator, who visits the 9-year-old book thief, whose parents have been sent to a concentration camp, three times. It¿s Zusak¿s first adult novel and it¿s breathtaking." ( Daily Express)
"Absorbing and searing." ( Washington Post)
"Zusak makes his ostensibly gloomy subject bearable in the same way Kurt Vonnegut did in Slaughterhouse-Five, with grim, darkly consoling humour." ( Time)
"Zusak's playfulness with language leavens the horror and makes the theme more resonant: words can save your life....It's a measure of how successfully Zusak has humanized these characters that even though we know they are doomed, it's no less devastating when Death finally reaches them." ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average customer ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Performance

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Story

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Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Karen
  • Plumstead, London, United Kingdom
  • 17-05-07

A great listen

It took me several attempts to get into this book, but it was definately worth it. I thought this was a great listen, really well paced and read by the narrator and an enchanting tale. I liked and engaged with so many of the characters in this book. I finished the story this morning on the tube - Yes I was that woman on the Metropolitan line who was sobbing - and no I wasnt having a life trauma - just finishing a remarkable and very emotional novel. This certainly comes under my 'download without delay' selection.

46 of 47 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Sandra
  • redditch, worcestershire, United Kingdom
  • 16-08-08

Wartime story with a difference

I was hooked from the reading of the first few lines. The narrative from deaths point of view was warm in an unexpected way, you'll have to listen to the book to see what I mean about that one.There are amusing moments and moments that truly make you want to cry. I recently saw the paperback version of this book in the childrens section of a well known large book store and was surprised that they included it in that section considering that it teaches you how to swear in German very well , great for when they steal the sunbeds when your next on holiday ! But joking aside, a tremendous listen highly recommended

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jim
  • CowesUnited Kingdom
  • 11-02-07

Superb

I took this book without reading any of the publishers notes, the title was intriguing enough. But oh what a joy once I started to listen, the narration was superb and the rich depth of the voice turned it into a melodic masterpeice. Lisle and Rudi may have been the key players but the characters surrounding them were the secret to the success of understanding. The writer was good enough to include enough German expletives to be able to curse at others under my breath and get away with it. A totally absorbing listen and listen and listen again.

62 of 66 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A new perspective

As so often, it is the small stories that really bring the big stories to life. This tale of a small girl and the people she loves is funny, charming and agonising, but the real triumph of this book is that it brings a new perspective on the lives of those who lived through Nazism. This is a beautifully written book that had me laughing out loud and, at the end, close to tears. Wonderful.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Heartwrenching and compelling

I didn't like the first half an hour of this book, nor the last half an hour. The story follows the life of Liesl, as narrated by Death. Don't be put off by this - the concept works brilliantly. The story specifically dwells on the years of the second world war. It is not a happy subject matter, and deals with some harsh realities. It is a thought provoking book, as well as being enthralling. It took me a little time to get used to the narrators personification of Liesl which I at first found slightly off putting. However, the narrator was superb and brought the book to life - this is a book that should be listened to and not read. I can't imagine a better way to enjoy the experience and content of this book than this magnificient audio narration. The content was heartwarming, often funny, and also harrowing. I was out on a long cycle ride for the last 30 minutes of the book, and was crying really hard without being able to stop myself, so I would strongly recommend the ending to be listened to in the comfort of your own home and not in public. Full credit to the narrator for his brilliant dramatisation.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Philip
  • LondonUnited Kingdom
  • 14-06-08

Brilliant!

A great book and the narrator was fantastic. I had actually partially read the book, so the only thing missing is the book's drawings which are just the cherry on the cake for this book.

Couldn't listen to it in public - it occassionally brought a tear to my eye!

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Robert
  • Harrogate, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom
  • 19-02-08

Excellent!

Beautifully written, beautifully read! A simple, yet powerful & emotive, story told from a unique perspective. I'll certainly be listening to this book again.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Elisabeth
  • Harpenden, Herts, United Kingdom
  • 02-08-10

excellent and different perspective of the war

simply brilliant. refreshingly different perspective from ordinary poor german family view.
loved the foster family - wife and husband such characters. the story with the hidden jewish refugee was brilliant.
I cannot give this book enough praise and read at an excellent pace without rushing.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Tracey
  • cupar, fife, United Kingdom
  • 04-01-09

a beautiful novel about an ugly time in history

The main themes of this fantastic novel, (it made me laugh a little and cry a lot) are despair, loss, grief, suffering, hunger, fanatasism and compassion by ordinary German folk in the Second World War. It is narrated by "Death" (who is portrayed as a hero and not a villan) and focuses on the life of an eleven year old girl, the couple who adopt her and the neighbourhood where they live. The relationship between the girl and her adoptive parents gradually develops, and the ending is truly dramatic, (have the tissues ready!) As all talking book fans will appreciate, the narrator can make or break the story, I found the narration excellent, the characters did come alive through my ipod and the accent was spot on. I finished listening to this book on Christmas Eve, which made me acutely aware of how much (especially food and resources) is wasted and taken for granted, while the characters in the story where literally starving, I felt quite sickened going into the supermarkets and having to endure the "trolly rage" which is particularly vile at this time of year!
This is a truly thought provoking novel, which I feel everyone over the age of 15, should read/listen too, at least once in their life. It will always remain one of my favourite books because of the beauty of the writing and the compassion it portrays.

23 of 26 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Patricia
  • Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, United Kingdom
  • 13-03-07

lyrical and filmic

Great characters, warmth and sorrow - lovely narration.

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 24-07-17

Solid story, excellent writing and imagery.

Classic wartime theme with superb charecter development. Beautiful imagery and written incredibly well. Would recommend.