Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The-Book-Thief-coverWhat it’s about:

HERE IS A SMALL FACT – YOU ARE GOING TO DIE

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.

Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.

SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION – THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH

It’s a small story, about:

a girl

an accordionist

some fanatical Germans

a Jewish fist fighter

and quite a lot of thievery.

ANOTHER THING YOU SHOULD KNOW – DEATH WILL VISIT THE BOOK THIEF THREE TIMES


Review:

I had to take a couples of days to get my thoughts together before writing this review because if I’d have wrote it straight after finishing the book, I’m afraid it wouldn’t have been in coherent sentences and would probably have contained numerous spelling mistakes due to the fact I couldn’t see the keyboard through my endless tears. I’m sure you all know the story of The Book Thief but for those that don’t, it’s 1939, Nazi Germany and Liesel Meminger has been sent to live with an adoptive family – Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Liesel feeds off books: Stealing books to be more precise. It follows Leisel and her little adventure on Himmel Street, the beautiful relationship between her and her Papa, a Jewish fist-fighter hiding in their basement, a boy with hair the colour of lemons and of course, the books and the words which will eventually, come to save her.

When she came to write her story, she would wonder exactly when the books and the words started not just to mean something, but everything

The Book Thief is one of those books that if you haven’t yet read it, you probably really don’t want to because of how much everyone raves on about it and I can totally get that – I was like that at first too but as soon as I started reading, all those fears slipped away and if I’m honest, I kind of slipped out of reality for a week or so because I was so completely and utterly consumed by this book. The thing that struck me the most about this book was how real everything was. You could see yourself walking down Himmel Street with Liesel, talking to a boy with bright blonde hair, sitting in the kitchen with her Mama and Papa – the entire story is so alive with love, life, feelings, emotions and words.

The characters don’t feel like characters – they feel like real people and I can honestly say, I loved every one of them. The relationships and bonds that form between all these unlikely people are incredible and you feel like you’re a part of it. Liesel’s relationship with her Papa for me was the heart of the story as it’s just so beautiful and honest and real. Rudy – the boy with the hair the colour of lemons – is that friend, that person that everyone needs in their life. Despite a whole war going on around them, Liesel and Rudy’s friendship blossomed every day. My favourite character and relationship however, was Max. The Jewish fist-fighter they hid in their basement. Liesel and Max needed each other more than they even knew and the unlikely bond between a German book thief and a Jewish fist-fighter isn’t one that comes around very often but it’s these unusual pairings that have the most impact. Despite being stuck in the basement, Max gave Liesel so much hope and vice versa. I can see a resemblance to Max in someone I know personally, so I think that might be why I completely fell in love with his character.

I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugliness and their beauty and I wonder how the same thing can be both

Liesel herself was a fantastic heroine. I loved everything she stood for – despite being a thief she’s completely unforgettable. The thing that stands out most about this book to me and to a lot of other people I can imagine is how it’s narrated. Death’s perspective isn’t one you usually – if ever – hear and I think it was done absolutely fantastically in this book. It’s something not many people would be able to accurately get away with. You always consider how humans feel when there’s a global tragedy, but never stop to think about how death might feel and this narrative has an outstanding way of making you think maybe, just maybe, death has a heart after all. He ever so gently takes you by the hand and leads you through this story and has somewhat an aura of calm and peacefulness about him. It was so carefully constructed and as the story focuses very much of the books and the words, I get the impression that every last word in this book was considered with the upmost importance.

I cried for the entire duration of the final 70 or so pages of this book – and 2 hours after. I just couldn’t come to terms with the fact that it was soon going to be over and this story and those characters weren’t going to be in my life anymore. The ending was so real and honest and painful and uplifting all at the same time. I can’t put into words how much everyone needs to know this story. Whether it’s by reading the book or if you’re not an avid reader, watching the film because it’s absolutely breath-taking. Eye-opening, hauntingly beautiful and a complete masterpiece. Stories like this don’t come around very often and I wholeheartedly believe that this will be a classic for future generations however nothing I’ve said here does it the justice it deserves.

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

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29 thoughts on “Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

      • Haha! Luckily I was in my room and nobody was home so I could wail as loud as I wanted which was good because there was a LOT of wailing! Can’t image having read that whilst out in public!

      • I can imagine. It was probably the best/worst way the book could have ended. I know, it was horrible. A lot of gentle sobbing was going on – it was like someone had died, and, in a way, that’s how it felt.

      • I absolutely loved the ending, think it was perfect and I don’t reckon it would have been as good if it had ended differently tbh! Totally understand how you feel there!

      • Oh my God same! Because it’s quite a long book anyway you feel like it’s never going to end – but in a good way. Then it does and it’s like… Oh. Now what?

      • Exactly! I had bad withdrawals from it. I tried to read another book a day later and my heart just wasn’t in it. I had to leave a bit of time in between. Sounds dramatic, I know!

      • Oh no it’s fine, I’m the same! I finished it 2 days ago, ended up watching the film AGAIN last night. Have tried to start a new book but I just can’t concentrate! I’ve just started The Fault in Our Stars for a re-read, maybe that’ll help! Haha

      • I know, it is too hard to jump from one book to the next sometimes – especially when you become so emotionally involved. I still haven’t seen the film; I’m worried it will ruin the book for me. I know they make big changes in it, too.

        That is a good choice to re-read. You are asking for more tears, though! Ha!

      • I thought the film was fantastic – obviously they leave a lot out but overall a pretty awesome adaptation. I know right! I was hoping to read something a bit more uplifting after that but I don’t think my heart would be in it. Bring on the tears!

      • I might give it a whirl then. I’ve been thinking about watching it since it came out.

        Haha, yeah, it’s like you have to go to another sad book just to get over it. I read Between Shades of Gray after The Book Thief, which is a fictional book but based on historical fact, and it was really good. Not The Book Thief good, but good.

  1. I was fortunate to read this shortly after the book became available. I still remember sitting in one of my college classes and a friend was reading it. The title intrigued me and she mentioned that it was an excellent book. I went and got a copy shortly after. This is a wonderful review of the novel, and deserves all the hype that it has received.

      • Haha don’t worry I know what you meant! I often wonder about books and whether if I’d read them just as they’d come out, before all the hype starts, I’d enjoy them. I think sometimes you’re led to enjoy them because everyone else does. I don’t reckon that’d be the case with this book though – it’s too unique and extraordinary. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  2. This is an amazing review, Jenny. I’ve wanted to read this book for years and although the film looks great, I refuse to watch it until I have read the book first. After reading your words I feel like I have no choice but to download i t to m kindle now 🙂

    • Ah I did the thing that you’re not supposed to do and watch the film before I read the book but I’m not very good with historical fiction – I never know how to imagine the settings in my head so I think doing it the wrong way around worked in my favour. Obviously I know some people just can’t do that! Haha. I would definitely recommend downloading it – it’ll be worth every penny, I promise 🙂

  3. Ok I HAVE to read this. It’s on my shelf but I still haven’t got round to it! Not sure if I’m putting it off slightly, as you said in your review. I’ve only heard amazing things so it’s quite a daunting prospect!

    • YOU HAVE TOO. I completely understand what you mean though I was a bit worried when I started it too because of all the hype but after watching the film I knew I’d love it. I honestly think you will too!

  4. Pingback: Book Review: “The Book Thief” | The Cheap Reader

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