Friday, October 18, 2013

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Steph's Rating 5 stars

Format: Paperback
Publisher: Knopf Books
Publication Date: March 14th, 2006
Pages: 550

Goodreads Synopsis:
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.

Steph's Review:

I heard a lot of great things about this book. I always planned to read it, but somehow I never got around to it on my own. Lucky for me, it ended up assigned on my reading list for school. With all its high ratings, I expected it to be some thrilling suspenseful adventure. Something that would keep me on the edge of my toes, something that would keep me up past 3 AM reading.

Let's clear up some of those misconceptions. 

1. This most definitely is not just some quick read. 

If you think, like I did, that you'll be able to knock your way through this book, you are sadly deceiving yourself. The Book Thief is something that you've got to sit down with for a while. It's exciting, but not in the way that gets your heart pumping. It might bore some readers, now that I think about it.  It's insightful, meaningful, and if you fly through these pages, you are probably missing out on a lot of intellect. This is something you will remember forever.

2. It's not an adventure.

Its horrifyingly literal from the start, in the midst of World War II Germany. There is nothing supernatural; no magic or sorcery to blow your mind away. Only Zusak's words, channeled through to us through Liesel Meminger. Its slice of life. Time passes, the story is told. I loved it.

3. Happy Endings? Not here.

Since when has anything WWII ever been completely happy? If there is such a story, inform me. I need to go check that out. Yes, The Book Thief is "fiction", but realize that the story told could pertain to any  WWII child's life. While it is made up, who knows if Zusak happened to recreate the story of a child's life completely from imagination. 

Another thing on happy endings. The Book Thief is uniquely narrated by--DEATH. No, he's not as depressing as you'd think, but one thing Mr. Death does like to do is spoil the book for you. Thats right--early on in the book, Death AKA Markus Zusak tells you EXACTLY how the book ends. The suspense collapses on itself, but you can't stop reading anyways. And let me warn you: the ending is despairing. I cried for at least half an hour.

Liesel Meminger was only 9 when her younger brother died on a train ride. They buried him in the snow. That was the day she became the book thief. Her first stolen treasure? "The Grave Digger's Handbook". Little did she know, that her mother was sending her to her foster parent's home--that this was the last time she would ever see her mother again.

In her new family in Molching, Germany, Liesel must adjust to life at near poverty. A place where the only place to learn how to read outside of school (one run my nuns) is within a basement. But despite the gangly setting, Liesel finds a semblance of peace with her best friend Rudy Steiner. The peace shatters. The Hubermann family, her fosters, decide to hide a Jew in their home. Everything becomes "what I can say and do outside", and "what I can say and do inside".

Different to other books, and what tugged at me the most, was that The Book Thief was written in a German's POV. All we ever hear about is the Holocaust. While it is good to know, it is still one-sided. Life for German's who weren't part of the Nazi Party was also dirty and hard. It really gives you a little bit of perspective. It also shows that some within the Nazi's didn't actually want to be "Nazi's". But survival instinct rules over us humans (haha, Death), and we'll do things we don't want to if the result means keeping our lives. Of course, there were just flat out evil Nazi members and believers, but we can't forget to think about those who weren't. We often think in Nazi Germany, all Germans are bad. That isn't the case, most definitely not.

There was a comment on the book cover, that says this book can be life-changing. I have to agree. Now, this book is not for thrill seekers. It's not for the weak stomached. It's not for those who don't like anything besides fairies and happily-ever-afters. If you want to read this, brace yourselves. Do I recommend it? Yes I do, fully and completely. But I also want those who read this to be ready for the book. If you don't realize the hidden meanings within, then this book may seem utterly dull to you. I loved this book, despite it being different from what I usually review. Definitely a well-told masterpiece!


  1. Steph, I totally loved this book even though I prefer "Happy Endings". This book is one of my favorites ;) Glad you reviewed it. (Kaitee)

  2. I have to say that this book turned out to be one of my favourites. I did not expect anything before I began nor had I ever heard of it. And boy did I cry...
    Marian ^_^ x


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