Rating: 5/5 stars
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.
By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.
Review: I think that the most interesting part about this story is that it’s narrated by Death. At first it sounds depressing, but it’s actually very eye-opening.
So as told by Death, we follow Liesel, a young girl living in Nazi Germany with her foster parents. You will go through every emotion as you read this book — fear, sadness, amusement, anxiety, everything.
The book takes you through Liesel’s years as a young girl. You get it all — new school, new friends, bullying, a boy, academic struggles. But as Liesel’s curiosity about books grows and as she longs to learn what the words contained inside them mean, she finds herself a hobby in book thievery and is willing to take risks to improve her reading ability.
As would be expected during a war, Liesel’s family is struggling to have enough money to even get a sufficient amount of food on the table, let alone have enough money to purchase books. And the struggle gets even more difficult when her foster parents decide to hide a Jew, Max, in their basement — another mouth to feed. Max becomes an integral part of their lives and him and Liesel develop a beautiful friendship.
Markus Zusak has a remarkable way of describing his characters. He uses common qualities to create unique characters. So it’s as if you know that characters personally. Here are a couple of examples:
“The old man simultaneously straightened and proceeded to swear with a ferocity that can only be described as a talent.”
“He was a superb pacer, Stephan Schneider — a small man you spoke, moved, and acted in a hurry.”
I’ll definitely be drawing inspiration from his great quality of character description to improve my own writing.
Throughout the book, Liesel’s obsession with books and book thievery have a powerful effect on the people around her. She gains friendships and later finds a passion for writing.
There were times when I almost forgot that Death was telling Liesel’s story. So many qualities about him reflect that of a human. Even death has fears, feelings, desires, a heart.
“I actually feel quite self-indulgent at the moment, telling you all about me, me, me. My travels, what I saw in ’42. On the other hand, you’re a human — you should understand self-obsession.”
It’s interesting because we all despise the narrator and wish his name upon himself, but as I kept reading, I grew to almost sympathize with him. I felt sorry for all the lives he has to carry away and all the humans he sees struggling right before their time comes. And maybe after reading this book, you’ll have a little compassion for him too.
“Please believe me when I tell you that I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born. I even kissed a few weary, poisoned cheeks. I listened to their last, gasping cries. Their French words. I watched their love-visions and freed them from their fear.”
My advice to you is if you’re a book crier, don’t finish this book at night unless you want to cry yourself to sleep and wake up with puffy eyes wishing you had followed my advice. Finish this book in the morning. This is not a spoiler. You will know what’s coming. Death will tell you.
I absolutely loved the descriptions in this book! I went crazy marking my favorite passages. Here are a few examples of Zusak’s beautiful writing:
“‘There were stars … they burned my eyes.’”
“She enjoyed the small fragments of pain.”
“She decided that he could best be summed up as a picture of pale concentration. Beige-coloured skin. A swamp in each eye. And he breathed like a fugitive. Desperate yet soundless. It was only his chest that gave him away for something alive.”
“The minutes were cruel.”
I know I’m probably the last person on earth to read this book. So if you’ve read it let me know what your favorite parts about the book were! And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram for more book updates!
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4 thoughts on “Book Review: “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak”
I also really enjoyed The Book Thief! I’ve nominated you for the Mystery Blogger Award if you want to participate.
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