Friday, December 6, 2013

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusck

Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusack
Publication Date: September 2005
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: Borrowed
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller that will be in movie theaters on November 15, 2013, Markus Zusak's unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul.

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who 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. 

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

All I can say

I was apprehensive about reading this book because it sounded too good to be true. There were so many awestruck reviews and cult followers that it almost put me off from reading it. I am so glad I did. 

Liesel's character immediately grabbed my attention and sympathy. I can't imagine how hard it would be to experience what she does in only the first few pages. I have to admit, I considered turning back after what happened to her on the train, but if she could get through it, so could I. 

Her character embodies the best and worst of this war. She fascinated me because she was at once completely safe and yet forever in danger, a class that might have contained more people through the history of World War II than I know. I held my breath in fear for her and applauded her efforts to steal books, her small vice in the face of such evil. Liesel has this vibrance about her that brings out the light even in the dark times she lived in. I can't explain exactly why she was so entrancing without calling up plot points that could be spoilers. If you've read The Book Thief, you know exactly what I mean.

Liesel has that freedom in life that makes her an excellent secondary narrator - in fact, this is the only book I'm aware of that has such a narration. At first, I found it a little jarring, but once I got used to the idea that her narration was being told from someone else's point-of-view, it clicked. Liesel is in the position to describe what was going on in the heart of Germany during the buildup and eventual outbreak of World War II. Her childlike innocence and adult awareness brings a slightly fragile quality to her narration of these times that would make the most stalwart reader tremble with emotion. 

The credit, in my mind, of this novel goes to the primary narrator, one that doesn't fully introduce himself until a few pages into the novel. The unique choice to choose Death as the narrator made this book. It's not often I come across an all-knowing narrator that doesn't strike me as arrogant. Death, more often than not, appealed to me, and I pitied him occasionally for the awful task he had to do.  It was never gruesome, and I appreciate that. He has a quiet, almost mournful, quality to his narration, one that really lends to the all-knowing character relating a story about a young girl who loved books. I never pictured Death as a sympathetic character, but then again, this book was nothing like what I expected.

Final Thoughts: The Book Thief is an extraordinary novel, one that accurately captures all the emotions of this horrible time in our history. I am fascinated by this novel, and it has stayed in my mind ever since I've put it down. 


  1. I absolutely loved this one, too, and couldn't get it out of my head for days afterward. It's been many years since I read it and some of the finer details have vanished from my mind under the weight of more recent novels, but I remember being completely taken with The Book Thief and in awe of Death as a narrator! I really want to see the film, but it isn't playing anywhere near me right now. Might have to wait for it to be released on DVD. It looks great!

    1. It does! I can't wait to see the movie to see how it compares to the book. I am really curious to see how the relationship between Liesel & Hans plays out in the movie - it was so touching in the book.