Book Review: The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

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The Book Thief contains a few things you need to know about. A young girl, an old couple, a Jewish fist fighter, Hitler and Death. Sounds simple, right?  Liesel herself in a new town with a doting foster father and a sharp tongued foster mother, trying to understand why she can’t see her mother any more. But Liesel Memminger is haunted, haunted by the ghost of her younger brother whom she watched die. Another thing you should know she is a thief, but the novel is about more than that.

The novel is a about a young girl and a country that will never be the same after war. As Liesel, Hanns (her stepfather) and Rosa (her stepmother) hide a young Jewish man they know they are risking their lives, from such risk comes a beautiful tale. The problem with novels as good as this is that you don’t want to ruin any part of it because you love it so much. I will say though the novel is a long one but in a nice way. It’s the kind of book that you can take a break from but as soon as you turn another page you fall straight back into the story. I must tell you that Liesel is quite possibly the cleverest thief you will ever encounter in literature after she is given the gift of education – something no one can take away- she continues to feed that eagerness at all costs.

Which leads me on to another character I have to mention, because I know you will fall in love with him. Rudy is Liesel’s neighbour, a sweet boy who idolises black athlete Jesse Owens in the middle of Nazi Germany. As you can assume this does not work in his favour. The relationship between him and Liesel is one of my favourite parts of the novel though, without him I doubt the Book Thief would have become who she was. It is the childlike simplicity that really recounts the horrors of war, of children that cannot understand the fighting or why some parents never come home.

Although it’s a questionable concept, Death makes and incredible narrator and he was one of the best characters. Who would have thought death could be so kind, caring and thoughtful. Oh and let’s not forget funny, there is great humour in the book even if it seems sad. I laughed more than I ever wanted to cry and it wasn’t just little laughs that would escape me, it was loud laughter which is rare. Death is a curious character, reminiscent of a gentle old man trying to teach lessons to the young. By having war recounted by someone or something which many of us would assume reveled in war Zusak has done something incredible; very few authors could open someone’s mind as he has.

“Even death has a heart.”

At times the book made my heart hurt. I could see the scenes playing out in front of me, I wanted to look away but I couldn’t. I wanted to reach out but I wasn’t really there. What Zusak has done with his magical description should not be taken lightly. I have not read novel like this that is so vivid in a very long time. I wanted to laugh, I wanted to cry and I wanted to make sure nothing like this could ever happen again. It’s incredible that even though this is fiction, it feels as if it could be real and that is the magic of a good story teller, they made you believe the book is real.This book made me cry, and I’m grateful. It is a stunning piece of literature that I want to read again and again.

I can’t give this book anything less than five stars *****, something I don’t give lightly. I remember not reading this book years ago when I had the chance and I wish someone had shaken me! Zusak is an incredible writer, so much so that if he never wrote again this book would be enough. If you haven’t read it, you should need to, it is beautiful and one of the best novels ever written.

Review by Chloe Metzger

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