Monday, April 29, 2019

The Book Thief Review


It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

By her brother's graveside, Liesel Meminger's life is changed when she picks up a singe object, partially hidden in the snow. It is the Grave Digger's Handbook, left 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 accordion-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. 

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time. 

This book was an assigned reading for my English class, so needless to say, I had pretty low expectations when starting The Book Thief. Also, I don't typically enjoy historical fiction. However, this was a very pleasant surprise, and an undeniably five-star read.

It was almost immediately that I fell in love with Liesel. I have a soft spot for characters whose authors have tortured them, and yet still manage to march forward. That, paired with her stubborn determination, and I have a new favorite. Well, actually second favorite. Like the narrator, Death, I will always adore Rudy Stiener the most.

I think that I have a thing for ornery characters. Like Liesel, Rudy has a hard time conforming to the harsh laws of Nazi Germany, and frequently steals things with her to blow off steam. They even join a band of boys and sneak on to farms to pilfer apples and potatoes. Rudy has been building his reputation as a trouble maker since he was a mere child, and ran around painted charcoal black in emulation of Jesse Owens.

Also, can I just say OTP?? I was seriously shipping these guys so hard.

Another couple that I loved was Hans and Rosa. Although Rosa was definitely the more abrasive of the two, I admired her determination to survive in their adverse conditions.

That being said, I think all readers will love Hans Hubermann. He was one of the kindest characters I'd read about, and loved every scene he was in. From when he sat with Liesel after her nightmares, to when he took in a Jew as a favor he'd promised over twenty years in the past.

Hans also struggled with a lot of internal conflict, which added just another layer of depth to the already moving story. Surrounded by the Nazis, Hans was part of the 10% of people who did not support them, as he'd had his life saved by a Jew in the past. He struggles throughout the story on what to teach Liesel, and with the relationships among his own family, as some of them were active members of the Nazis.

In addition, I thought that personifying Death, and having him as a narrator put a twist on the story that was not only unique, but fit the setting so well. In a time period swamped with suppression and death, who better to tell the tale than Death himself?

I felt that Zusak did an excellent job of portraying an accurate Nazi Germany. I'm well aware that had The Book Thief not ended the way it did, it would not have been as powerful of a book, because it would have been an unrealistic conclusion for the story setting. But still . . . I don't think I'll be able to think about that ending without tearing up. I read a few of the chapters of part ten while I was at school and I spent the entire time telling myself "don't cry, don't cry, don't cry." Let me tell you man, it got pretty close.

If you ever want to read a raw representation about what life during the Holocaust was like--read this book. It not only emphasizes the struggles of the minorities at the time, but of everyone else, as their peers were slowly brainwashed.

You can find Zusak's website here, and you can read a free excerpt of The Book Thief here.

Happy reading!


  1. Ugh, YES, this book was SO GOOD. I especially loved Max (I think that’s his name??), but all the characters were so good. Great review!

  2. I have seen the movie but haven't read the book yet. I want to! I liked the movie and the book sounds great!

    1. The book is so good!

      I've heard the movie is good too, but I haven't seen it yet. We're watching it in class next week though.

  3. This sounds so good! I need to check it out.


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