The Book Thief. Markus Zusak

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The Book Thief
Mark Zusak
Published: Black Swan
Date: 2005
Format: Paperback
Pages: 553
Genre: Historical fiction.
Source: Own book
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1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier. Liesel a nine year old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs began to fall.

It’s a small story, about:
a girl
an accordionist
some fanatical Germans
a Jewish fist fighter
 quite a lot of thievery. 
My thoughts banner
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – what can I say, it caught me up and made me carefully read every page. It was very strange in the beginning it was narrated by Death, I think now having read the whole book if I were to go back and read the beginning again, I would not find it so strange. Death is a voice of great compassion.

A story of the best of humanity and the worst. Set in Germany in WW11 it gives us a viewpoint from Himmel St, a poor street in a German town. It is to this street that Liesel is brought to be fostered by Hans Hubermann and his wife Rosa. They become her Papa and Mama. She has already seen and experienced more than anyone her age should, and as the war goes on, it only grows larger. What a Papa and Mama too. They were everything this young girl needed. They also showed her the largeness of their hearts and where they stood in this terrible time.

Liesel makes friends with a boy in the street – Rudy, and what a friendship. They have many adventures together, although remember it’s wartime, so not what you usually find in a friendship. They know hard times and their compassion and largeness of heart only grows. Rudy is all boy and he keeps asking Liesel for a kiss, but will she ever bestow it?

Max is another important character in this book and a strong bond grows between Liesel and himself. She brings him gifts when he is ill, he in turn goes to great lengths to create gifts for Liesel.

When Liesel arrives at the Hubermann’s house she cannot read or write, but she carries with her a book, the first book that she has taken. With Hans help, slowly and painstakingly she learns to read and write. In times of distress eventually her reading will bring others peace and help calm them. And she also becomes a book thief, aided and abetted by Rudy and another surprising woman.

Yes, I wept through the last sad pages, sad for the losses and admiring of the beauty in one young woman who both loved and hated words, recognising the power of the word.

I am pleased that finally I was able to take The Book Thief of my TBR shelf and read it where it took me to a place where I could recognise the beauty of humanity and along with it the evil power that could destroy so many lives.

5 stars
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The Beast’s Garden. Kate Forsyth

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The Beast’s Garden
Kate Forsyth
Published: Random House Australia
Date: August 3rd 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 441
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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Ava fell in love the night the Nazis first showed their true nature to the world .’ A retelling of the Grimm’s Beauty and The Beast, set in Nazi Germany. It’s August 1939 in Germany, and Ava’s world is in turmoil. To save her father, she must marry a young Nazi officer, Leo von Löwenstein, who works for Hitler’s spy chief in Berlin. However, she hates and fears the brutal Nazi regime, and finds herself compelled to stand against it. Ava joins an underground resistance movement that seeks to help victims survive the horrors of the German war machine. But she must live a double life, hiding her true feelings from her husband, even as she falls in love with him.

Gradually she comes to realise that Leo is part of a dangerous conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. As Berlin is bombed into ruins, the Gestapo ruthlessly hunt down all resistance and Ava finds herself living hand-to-mouth in the rubble of the shell-shocked city. Both her life and Leo’s hang in the balance. Filled with danger, intrigue and romance, The Beast’s Garden, a retelling of the Grimm brothers’ ‘Beauty and The Beast’, is a beautiful, compelling love story set in a time when the world seemed on the brink of collapse.

My thoughts banner
The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth is a well researched and compelling story, set in Germany just prior to and during the Second World War.  It is more accurately the retelling of The Singing, Springing Lark – a version of Beauty and the Beast.
I wanted to read this book, but held back, a little reluctant to enter again that horrifying era. Like the author my first introduction to it was through The Diary of Anne Frank. However once I opened The Beast’s Garden and started reading I was soon captured by the characters and the plot.  
I found reading a book set within Germany was different, I knew very little about Berlin during that time and the Resistance operations. It was an eye opener for me. Being given a viewpoint from Berlin looking out at the war was thought provoking. The atrocities of the Nazis, the bombing of the city and the desperation of the inhabitants of the city are all experienced through the eyes of Ava, Leo and their friends and families.
Ava is a resilient, courageous character. Her exploits and care for her Jewish friends never wavered. The treatment of the Jews is not glossed over and is often disturbing and real. 
Ava’s love for Leo was real and enduring. Leo was the very antithesis of what I had thought about when I thought of  the German Nazi Officers. He is part of the resistance movement The Red Orchestra, a group that realise that Hitler is evil and mad. They put their lives at risk to try to rid their country of him.
As I read on I couldn’t put the book down. This is a well crafted novel that engaged my mind and emotions. There are some excellent novels written about this time period and this book can hold its place very well among them.
5 stars
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