The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief – The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller that is now a major motion picture, Markus Zusak’s unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul.
The Book Thief is a novel by Australian author Markus Zusak. First published in 2005, the book won several awards and was listed on The New York Times Best Seller list for 375 weeks.
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.
The Book Thief centers around the life of Liesel Meminger, a ten-year-old girl living in Germany during World War II. Liesel’s experiences are narrated by Death, who describes both the beauty and destruction of life in this era.
After her brother’s death, Liesel arrives in a distraught state at the home of her new foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. During her time there, she is exposed to the horror of the Nazi regime and struggles to find a way to preserve the innocence of her childhood in the midst of her destructive surroundings. As the political situation in Germany deteriorates, her foster parents hide a Jewish man named Max, putting the family in danger. Hans, who has developed a close relationship with Liesel, teaches her to read in secret. Recognizing the power of writing and sharing the written word, Liesel begins to not only steal books the Nazi party is looking to destroy, but also write her own stories and share the power of language with Max. As Liesel copes with the trauma of her past and the violent horrors of the war-torn world around her, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery, the formation of a new family, and mostly, her life as a book thief.
A Different Perspective
The trouble with reading a book that’s been out for awhile – in this case, 7 years – is that you’re bound to hear something about it. I knew going into it that The Book Thief was about World War II, that the main character was a little girl and that it was set in Germany. Aside from those facts, I’d heard rave reviews and things like “this book deserves six stars” and saw a TON of 5-star reviews.
It’s almost like setting yourself up for failure sometimes. The expectations are so very high!
I thoroughly enjoyed The Book Thief. It was my book club selection for December, and it had a ton of great discussion points and depth to dig into.
My favorite aspect of the novel was the narrator. The Book Thief is told from Death’s perspective. As in, the grim reaper, so to speak, is telling the story and talking about his encounters with Liesel Meminger, a young orphan sent to live with a new family on Himmel (heaven) street in small town in Germany.
The way death describes himself, his role in the war and the extraordinary life of Liesel is breathtaking. I did find some parts to drag, especially when you KNEW something was going to happen and waiting for it to actually take place is sweet torture.
That’s another part of the story I found fascinating: Death would often tell you what was going to happen later in the story. He would basically provide the book’s own spoilers, and it’s so unusual and unexpected that it didn’t spoil anything, really, because you’re too busy puzzling out…wait did that just happen? And, do I believe it?!
Told with both a non-Jewish German and Jewish German insights, I found The Book Thief a very eye-opening look at how Hitler’s reign affected the people in his country. The propaganda and the fear and the non-support of Hitler was surprising and I love how the author challenged the typical view of how Germans felt and reacted to the war.
Power of Words
Liesel and Hans Hubermann were my favorite characters and their relationship one of my all-time favorites in literature. The sweet building of trust and love between them is so moving and beautiful.
I love that they each help each other – to read, to open up and to heal.
The Book Thief is brutal and harsh without being overly graphic or without purpose. You’re heart strings will most definitely be tugged, but I like how everything is described and woven together so well.
Also, by “heart strings be tugged” what I mean is ripped out, stomped on and then run over. So yeah, prepare yourself.
The best favor you can do yourself is don’t read any (more) reviews. Just go into it as fresh as possible. The Book Thief has a lot of offer: heart, spirit, the triumph of human will and persistence. Read it, love it, steal some books of your own. But, definitely read The Book Thief.