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Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Updated on September 9, 2010
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief Summary

Markus Zusak has taken such a creative approach in writing "The Book Thief" that the dire subject matter is made much more endurable.  I just finished reading this book as part of our book club pick and I must say it was a hard book to put down.

Taking place during the holocaust, this historical fiction portrays the life of Liesel Meminger, a daughter of Communist parents, who was given over to a German couple to be raised.  Liesel, feeling abandoned, must adjust to her new life during wartime in Nazi Germany.

Liesel undergoes a series of relationships lost and relationships found. From the death of her brother and separation from her mother to her love of her step papa and her best friend Rudy, your heart will continually be pulled along with Liesel's.

A surprisingly close and dangerous liaison is made between Liesel and a Jewish man when her foster parents decide to hide him in their basement.  They form an understanding and share a love of books and writing.  Together they give each other hope for the future.

The central theme of the whole book is Liesel's acts of book thievery and what they signify at the time. It all begins at her brother's graveside with "The Grave Diggers Handbook". What starts out to be a memento becomes her escape. Liesel is taught to read that first book by her papa which fuels her need for more words. And so the thievery begins. Books are what give Liesel hope through the tragedies and uncertainties that she faces.

Unique Narration

What makes this book endurable to read, given the subject matter, is the unique narration. I had never read a book narrated by an apparition and especially one as dire as death itself. Coming up with this strategy was genius given the fact that the book was written in the setting of the holocaust where death, unfortunately, played a major role.  Who else could be more qualified to narrate the entire story?

The fact that death was given some emotion, even the sense of compassion, took the sting out of his duties. Death didn't want to get involved with the lives of humans but couldn't stop himself from watching and caring. He always gave ample warning to upcoming events so that there were no big surprises, allowing the reader to prepare emotionally.

The fact that the narrator also injected some humor was a welcome relief in the story.  Although, like any holocaust story, the content can be hard to read, the author did a great job of telling the story.

The Book Thief

The Book Thief was written as a young adult novel but due to the content and page length it is highly suitable as an adult novel as well. The book was actually published in the author's home country of Australia for adults.

I would recommend this book for any mature young adult or older.  It was a great novel pick for a book club and included discussion questions at the end of the book.


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    • htodd profile image

      htodd 5 years ago from United States

      Great post ..Interesting stuff

    • htodd profile image

      htodd 5 years ago from United States

      Interesting article..Thanks for that

    • Song-Bird profile image

      Renee Hanlon 6 years ago from Michigan


      I'm glad you liked the book. It was pretty intense so I'm also glad that your class handled it well. I'm sure it led to some great discussions.

    • MichelleA2011 profile image

      Michelle 6 years ago from Connecticut

      I loved this book. Last summer it was recommended to me by a collegue and happened to be in our school's summer book fair the very next day. As I worked the fair, I picked up the book to see what it was all about and knew I had to have it!! And you're right - the unique narrator was very intriguing. In fact, I hadn't realized myself that the narrator was death right away and had to go back and reread the beginning once I figured it out.

      I read this book with my class during this school year and they loved it! The girls were all over how much Rudy loved Leisel and were in tears more than once. I did a whole background on WWII, the Nazis, Hitler, & Germany in order to give the book some perspective. And the discussion questions in the back really helped the students to express themselves in writing and during discussions. This was a powerful book and I was so proud of how well the handled it.