Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Breathtaking
The Book Thief was one of those books I’d been meaning to read for quite a while, but it had just never been the right time. I finally got around to reading this glorious piece of literature and it was phenomenal. Markus Zusak has written something new, different, and extraordinary. The Book Thief was so gripping and alluring that it was near impossible to put down. The best part was all the seemingly unconnected strings that tied up into a perfectly neat bow at the end. The way people and places and incidents connected was simply awe-inducing.
The novel centers around a little girl, Liesel. She lives with a foster family in Nazi Germany and forms a love of books, and a habit of stealing them. Of course, at the time of her first act of thievery, she does not know how to read, and as the book progresses, so does her level of reading. I really loved Liesel as a character. I loved the way she thought and her way of handling situations. I loved that she was not afraid to stand up for herself and was always taking risks. Liesel was such a dynamic character, who really grew over the course of the novel.
Aside from Liesel, The Book Thief features so many great characters. There’s Rudy Steiner, Liesel’s friend who is a bit crazy but ultimately loyal and caring; Mama, her foster mother who is strict and ruthless, but loves Liesel on the inside; Papa, her foster father, who is kind, loving, and teaches her to read; and Max, the Jew Liesel’s family hides in their basement. With the addition of Max to their little household, Liesel learns a lot more than she ever thought she would – about Germany, about the Fuhrer, and about herself. The characters in this book all have their own special air about them that makes them feel real. Mama is a tyrant and is very “good at being furious. In fact, you could say that [Mama] had a face decorated with constant fury. That was how the creases were made in the cardboard texture of her complexion.” Rudy is always asking Liesel for a kiss. These characters come alive on the pages.
And then there is one very important “character”: the narrator. You see, The Book Thief, as you can tell from the very first page, is narrated by death itself. And death makes a wonderful narrator. It slips in personal comments throughout the book, and speaks with remarkable eloquence. When describing a person Liesel and Rudy encounter, he does not simply list his attributes. He says
“He was a delicate frame. He was white hair. He was a black raincoat, brown pants, decomposing shoes, and a mouth – and what a mouth it was.”I particularly loved this because man was the very qualities that made him up, rather than a blank canvas with these qualities spilled about it.
And I can tell you now that our narrator is no bystander, watching as this all unfolds. Oh, he is as much involved in the story as Liesel. When we first learn of Max’s existence, Death tells us
“The juggling comes to 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.”Can I say just how much I loved this phrase? Something about the way it is spoken (come to think of it, most things said by our grim narrator make me feel this way), the way it hints at what’s to come, and the way it reminds us that this is a story just gave me chills when reading it for the first time.
One of my favorite things about The Book Thief was the narrator’s interjections. Sometimes they would be conversation bits, or facts about a character, or a sneak peek of what was to come. They gave the book a unique feel, and added a very refreshing type of break between paragraphs.
Markuz Zusak’s beautiful diction and articulation, through the narration of Death, definitely set this book apart from any that I’ve read before. One of my favorite lines was
“She was the book thief without the words. Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain.”There are so many beautiful gems of writing and dialogue throughout the book, and all the words intertwine so complexly and wonderfully that each page just left me wanting more. When people say authors “craft” works, they must be speaking of Markus Zusak, because these words were delicately sewn into the hearts of every person who has read a single line of this book.
There is little else I can say without spoiling the book, which I would certainly hate to do. There are so many components that make it so breathtaking, like the accordion player and the growing book thievery and The Book Thief itself (you’ll see what I mean when you read it). It left me wanting to be able to read it for the first time all over again instead of going back to reality. It’s one of the most magnificent books I’ve read in a while and I absolutely loved it.
Would you risk your family's safety to hide someone in your basement?
Let us know in the comments!