Review: The Book Thief- Markus Zusak

It has took me so long to get around to reading this book that it’s probably been read and read again by now. And then I found out the film was due to be released so I had to frantically read it (because we all hate going to see the film when we haven’t read the book yet, right?) Not that I needed any encouragement; The Book Thief is such a wonderfully crafted novel blazing with passion and humanity that I read it within a week, savouring every word and trying to understand the sheer power of its words. So here it is, the book behind the film that has had everyone reaching for its pages since its release.

If you don’t like happy endings, if you don’t want your heart to be broken then this isn’t for you.

But if you love to read, if you devour books like they’re chocolate, if you care about the characters you read about then pick up this book.

the book thief

Anyone who is going to write a review is going to say first off that the narrator of this novel is death, who takes us into the dangerous waters of Nazi Germany in 1939. And he isn’t how you imagine a grim reaper with a scythe; he’s funny, even charming. He is just trying to understand the human race like we ourselves are trying to. And his descriptions of the sky each time someone dies? Truly beautiful and such a genius idea by the author. Death as the narrator just works. I love it.

It is death who introduces us to Liesel Meminger, and what an incredible, heart-breaking story her life is. Liesel lives in Munich with her foster parents-you’ll hear the words ‘saukerl’ and ‘saumensch’ a lot- and lives a poverty-stricken existence during one of the most horrific periods in history.

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.” 

If there’s one thing that Liesel loves it is books and reading- and wherever she can, whenever she can, she likes to steal and treasure her stolen books. But why should we feel sorry for her? Liesel and the people around her are German, members of the Nazi party, they believe Jews are nothing more than filth. Right?

Wrong. Somehow Zusak has given us a fresh look on the tragedies of the holocaust. He gives us insight to the other side – the innocent families, the people who have unwillingly been forced to join the Nazi party, the people who are in fact hiding a Jew in their basement. The characters seem so real they practically step off the page. You ache for them by the end of the book.

They are caught in the destruction of World War Two and somehow, even with Hitler breathing down their necks, they stay human. It really was a beautiful thing to read.

From Rudy Steiner who yearns for Liesel’s kiss, Hans and Rosa Hubermann who uphold their values and do what they think is right, to Max Vandenburg, who stays brave and gives Liesel the best gift he could. And of course Liesel, who suffers more cruelty in the world than any child should, but finds comfort in her books and those around her.

The Book Thief is written so beautifully in equal amounts of heartbreak and passion that I just couldn’t put it down. Five stars just is not enough.

Rating: 5/5

Do I recommend you to read it? Yes

Genre: Coming of age novel, young adult literature, historical fiction