Book Review # 26 - The Book Thief

The Book Thief


Markus Zusak

Back Cover: "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 single 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."

Have you ever read a book that captures your attention and when you have read the last page, you sit there, so filled by the words, the images, the characters, you don't want to read anything else. It reminded me of Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place and The Diary of Anne Frank while reading the story. I finished The Book Thief last night and have to say it was a very unusual, yet interesting book. Very powerful. I can't say it was an easy read, because the subject matter is not an easy one. It wasn't a book I would ordinarily pick to read and chose it as one of the books for Dewey's Books Reading Challenge. None of the books I chose from her archive of reviews are books I ordinarily would read. But I'm glad I did.

How to describe this story or say what hasn't already been said in numerous reviews? The story is narrated by Death and takes place during the era of Hilter. I am used to reading stories from the jewish perspective from that period such as the Zion Chronicles by Bodie Thoene. This story is not only from Death's perspective, but Liesel's, too and provides you a look into the lives of the Germans and how they suffered under Hilter's rule. When death introduces the beginning of Liesel's story, she is traveling with her mother and brother to Munich where the two kids are going to be left at a foster home. During the journey Liesel's brother dies and Death comes to take his soul. Liesel's mother leaves her with the foster car authorities and is never or heard from again. Liesel is taken to live with her new foster parents, Hans and Rose Hubermann in Molching where life for ten year Liesel is changed forever. They end up hiding a young Jewish man named Max in their basement because Max's father saved Hans life during WWI.

There are so many nuances to this story that it would be impossible to explain. Zusak manages to make an ugly storyinteresting with words that provide vivid images.

"Upon her arrival, you could still see the bite marks of snow on her hands and the frosty blood on her fingers. Everything about her was undernourished. Wirelike shins. Coat hanger arms. She did not produce it easily, but when it came, she had a starving smile." (pg 31)

"The juggling comes to an end now, but the struggling does not. I have Liesel Meminger in one hand, Max Vandenburg in the other. Soon, I will clap them together. Just give me a few pages. (pg 168

"She didn't dare to look up, but she could feel their frightened eyes hanging on to her as she hauled the words in and breathed them out. A voice played the notes inside her. This, it said, is your accordion. The sound of the turning page carved them in half. Liesel read on." (pg 381)

The Book Thief is a young adult book meant for 9th graders and above. It is an extraordinary and unique way to expose young men and women and adults too, to what life was like during the Hitler era. I highly recommend it.

576 Pages
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf - Books for Young Readers
Historical fiction


  1. I read the ARC of this a few years ago and was blown away by it. However, when I gave it to my dad, he couldn't get through it. Go figure!

  2. Lately I have been reading, with great interest, books that portray German children's experiences of the war. Everyone suffers during a war and it's good to see fictional accounts of both sides experiences. John Boyne's The Boy In The Striped Pajamas is another good example of a book about a German child during the war.

    When I wrote my novel, Hitler and Mars Bars, I hadn't read any either of these books. Now I'm fascinated to see how many different portrayals there can be of German children's experiences. Each of the 3 books is very different yet they reveal aspects of these children's lives.

  3. It's just an amazing book. The drawings, the narration by Death, the writing . . .

  4. This book sounds good - I am going to add it to my library list. Thanks!

  5. Thanks for your review. I went through a phase in my life that it seemed all I read was about WWII, concentration camps, etc. So I got a little burned out on them and I don't read a whole lot of those types of books anymore, but your review makes me what to read this book.

  6. I thought this was an incredible book--the choice to use Death as the narrator was creative and just added a creeping sense of dread to the book. It was beautiful.


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