Today, I will be reviewing The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I’ve been meaning to read this book for a very long time because it had such great reviews, people raved about it, and it sounded like a really interesting story. I must say that the book did not disappoint. I thought it was absolutely fantastic. It was beautifully written, the story was well-thought out, and there were a lot of funny and cute moments within the whole tragic and heartbreaking scheme of things. I gave it 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads which is a big deal since I don’t give out that rating to just any book. I know one reviewer said that The Book Thief should be up on a shelf next to The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s definitely a modern classic. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I would definitely recommend it to everyone. I’m going to put the rest of my review under Read More for spoiler reasons, so if you’re planning on reading the book and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t click Read More until you’ve finished it.
Again, the book overall is kind of tragic and sad. It’s narrated by Death, and it’s set in World War II Germany. Death is telling the story of The Book Thief, a young girl named Liesel Meminger who’s parents are communists and hated by the Nazi Party.
The Book Thief is Liesel’s story of growing up, book thievery, secrets and loss. Liesel is a little girl growing up in unfortunate circumstances. She’s taken to a foster home when she’s ten. Her foster parents, Rosa and Hans Hubermann, are proof that opposites attract. Rosa is harsh and foul-mouthed and quick tempered. Hans is an easy-going and compassionate man. Hans teaches Liesel how to read, which plays a role in her desire to steal books. She has very little education, so her school put her with the 6 and 7 year olds until she catches up. Things get harder when Max Vandenburg, a German Jew knocks on their door and asks Hans if his promise to take care of him is still good. Max is the son of one of Hans’ army friends who died in World War I. Hans promised to do his friend’s family a favor to repay his friend for saving his life. Liesel and Max form quite the bond until Max is forced to leave when Hans makes the fatal mistake of helping a Jew on the street as the Nazi’s parade them through Molching on the way to Auschwitz. Liesel’s life becomes a mess again when an Ally raid hits her street by accident and kills everyone she loves. Liesel was only spared because she was writing her story in the basement.
I wasn’t lying when I said that it was a tragic story. But it has its cute moments. The rush that Liesel feels when she steals a new book is something that is beautifully described. The nights where Hans is teaching her how to read or he’s playing the accordion for her brought a smile to my face. Hearing Max and Liesel discuss their dreams and nightmares and fantasies were very sweet and human moments. Max’s stories for Liesel were very cute and simple and meaningful (especially since he painted over the pages of Mein Kampf to write his them.) The end, when Liesel is an old woman and meets Death once more, is such a cute moment. Death hands her the story she had been writing when the bombs hit, and she’s surprised that he had kept it. Her antics with her best friend, Rudy Steiner, range from cute to hilarious. Seeing her grow and slowly fall in love with Rudy and questioning if she wanted to kiss him like he always asked her to was interesting to see. Whenever we talk about WWII, we talk about battles and bombings and enemies and tyrants and concentration camps and struggle. We never talk about the people, which I guess is part of the reason I loved this book so much. It was set in World War II; it wasn’t about World War II.
I thought having Death be the narrator was such an unusual choice, but it worked perfectly in this story. It opened up the scope of the writing style because it wasn’t stuck at being a young girl’s voice (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It could be oddly profound and wise and deep. (Not sure if that makes any sense but I don’t know how else to phrase it…) It also meant that the narrator could talk about what was going on elsewhere. Hearing Death talk about the difficulties of his job during that time period was funny and a bit morbid.
I think the writing style was what drew me in the most. It was so beautifully written and the flow of the narration and the way certain things were phrased and the sort of detail in the story was just perfection. I don’t think I’ve read such beautiful writing in a young adult novel before. I was kind of reminded of the writing style in Heart of Darkness when I was reading this. (I really hated that book, but the writing was gorgeous.)
That’s it for my review. I’m hoping to read more by Markus Zusak just because his writing style is fantastic, and if The Book Thief was any indication, he knows how to tell a good story. Thanks for reading!