The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

ImageI have been meaning to read this book for a long time, but I’ve always been afraid of tragic stories, of sad stories. And this was a sad story and so, so much more. I fell in love with this book, now it’s definitively one of my favorite books of all time. If you haven’t read it yet: go pick it up right NOW.

The Book Thief is the story about a girl who steals books in Nazi Germany, Liesel Meminger. Since her mother can’t afford to take care of her, and after the death of her brother, she is adopted by Hans and Rosa Hubermann and goes to live in Molching with them. There she steals books from Nazi book-burnings, from the mayor’s wife and hides a Jew in her basement. She learns that Hitler was wrong about the world and makes Death an old friend.

Liesel stood in the mayor’s library with greed in her fingers and book titles at her lips.

There are just no words to describe the beauty of this book. It’s so good I tried to hold off finishing it by reading slower than I usually do, and I’ve never done that before. Of course, I sobbed during it. Of course, I had to stop reading because I couldn’t make out the words through my tears. But it was worth it. It was so worth it. I’m so sad it’s over.

I’m going to try to write some of my thoughts on this book, so bear with me if this doesn’t make much sense.

To me, this is a book about what it means to be human. That even the most unpleasant of people can get hurt. But that the good people are the ones that suffer the most. And it’s about reality; it’s about what these people went through during the war: the uncertainty of living and the death of good people.

The world is an ugly stew, she thought.
It’s so ugly I can’t stand it.

The Book Thief shows us that there are bad people everywhere, that they can be of every age and gender. Like Viktor Chemmel. Like Franz Deutscher. Like Adolf Hitler. People who think they are better than everyone else for many reasons. None of them are right.

It’s about suffering without sugarcoating it, but it’s also about happiness and the beauty of small things. Like a snowman in a basement, a book in a river and a really big cloud. About the power of words and how much they affect us. Be it good or bad. And the loss, like many other things in wars, of the innocence of youth.

As she watched all of this, Liesel was certain that these were the poorest souls alive. That’s what she wrote about them. Their gaunt faces were stretched with torture. Hunger ate at them as they continued forward, some of them watching the ground to avoid the people on the side of the road. Some looked appealingly at those who had come observe their humiliation, this prelude to their deaths. Others pleaded for someone, anyone, step forward and catch them in their arms.
No one did.

Obviously, this post could not be complete without talking about the narrator. Markus Zusak is a genius, really. I think this is the best narrator I have even seen, because, like he himself admits, he knows us at our best and our worst. It’s Death itself, of course. Seeing the war through his eyes was brilliant. Not that the war was good, just that we got to see the tattered souls of the Jews and the terrified souls of the soldiers. And understand: nothing is worth so much suffering and murder.

I have hated the words and
I have loved them,
and I hope I have made them right.

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6 thoughts on “The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

  1. I haven’t seen many fiction books to address book burning in Nazi Germany. But I did love Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 with a similar theme. It’s so curious how book burning might reflect on the society that practices it and ignite powerful emotions within characters, or even change them. I will have to check out The Book Thief in the future.

    • This is my first book set in Nazi Germany, so I don’t know much about what’s usually addressed, but it’s definitely something that should be. Fahrenheit 451 is one of my favorite books, because I think it shows, like The Book Thief, the power of words. Which is what I think book burning is about: quenching that power. I highly recommend this book, it’s brilliant! Thanks for commenting :)

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed this book. It is absolutely one of my favorites. It was worth every tear I shed, and believe me, I cried a lot while reading it! But I really liked Death as the narrator and the story was so moving… Great review :)

    • Thanks! I fell in love with this book and now it’s definitively one of my favorites too. It’s just so raw and true. But yeah, I did cry quite a lot during it. I think everyone did. Death was brilliant as the narrator, I loved his portrait of human life. Thanks for the comment :)

  3. This is a great review, Amanda! Love it! I think you’re so right about the book being about human and about the different aspects of life. Great quotes too!

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