Reading & Reviewing | R&R 053
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R&R 053 | The Book Thief

Markus Zusak
The Book Thief
First published in: 2006
This edition: Black Swan, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-552-77389-8
Cover design by Claire Ward. Cover illustration by Finn Campbell-Notman.

R&R 053 | The Book Thief

The Book Thief is a story about a nine year-old girl in Germany. Liesel is her name. And she lives on Himmel Street, Munich. (Heaven Street.) Her little brother died a while ago, and her parents have been shipped off to concentration camps. World War 2 is about to begin its destruction.

The narrator of Liesel's story? Death himself.

Death takes a liking towards Liesel, whom he first met when he came to take her little brother away. This was before the war broke out. Some years later, as Liesel moves to Himmel Street to live with her foster parents, Death observes her new life. He tells us about Liesel cheering on her best friend Rudy as he runs, like his hero Jesse Owens. About Liesel bonding with a wanted Jew named Max (Liesel's moments with Max were my favourite parts of the book). About Liesel finding an unlikely friend in the mayor's wife, finding distraction in her library. Oh, and Death also tells us about Liesel stealing a few books while she's at it. The Book thief. Death cannot seem to let her go.

Death is likeable, however. He's not scary, but sympathetic. But the likability of Death doesn't make the book endearing or cute. The book is, after all, still about death, no capital letter D.

I tend to avoid stories set during World War 2, because the cruelty of those years is too much to bear at times. The Book Thief is moving, most definitely. I just didn't expect to feel such overwhelming sadness when I finished it. I was not expecting a feel good book, absolutely not, but the effect this book had on me… the effect it still has on me is why I typically stay clear of WW2 literature.

What I did like about Zusak's book in relation to WW2, is that it was written from the German point of view. A misconception is that 'all Germans agreed with Hitler!' while in reality, the majority of them did not, and if they did, it was because they were forced, threatened, killed. Fear is a powerful weapon. Others probably just didn't know any better. Zusak shows that side of the war.

This book is suitable for adults mostly, but also for young adults, to whom I'd recommend they pick up a copy of this book instead of (re-)reading Twilight. (Yes, I mention Twilight again, but this time I do it because The Book Thief is an example of YA literature that actually really deserves as much or more attention as YA books such as the Twilight books.)

Despite the fact that the protagonist is a little girl, the book is not for children; the story has lovely elements but is generally tragic. The Book Thief is a tremendously good read, but it speaks the cold-hearted truth about one of the low points in human history.

But I'm glad I have read it. It's not often these days that you find a book that stays with you, forever. The Book Thief is hard as steel at times, but it's a steal of a book.

R&R series (and its photos, reviews) © Karin Elizabeth 2008-2009

From now on I'm posting the photos directly from my flickr stream.

Karin Elizabeth
  • Elise

    "I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant."

    This is such an incredible book! Thank you so much for reviewing it – I hope that many more will read it as a result.

    You have an extremely lovely blog if I may say so 🙂 (we have very similar taste in novels)


    August 23, 2009 at 12:54 am
  • Addie

    Awww, my comment didn;t get posted. Basically i wanted to say that i loved it, to the extent of reading it in one sitting and stopping fro ten minutes to cry and cry. :]

    And i love the little headings that signalled the start of a poem or a list. SO adorable and unique. (or is it not?)

    I also like how it was from the POV of death.

    I suggest you also read The Messenger by Marcus Zusak. Not of the same level as the Book Thief but a great read nevertheless.

    Thanks for the nice review!

    August 23, 2009 at 8:41 am
  • Addie

    I personally loved how some point of views were from Death. It was interesting (I'm not sure if any other author has done this) and i also loved how poems and lists were set apart from the prose with a little heading that recurred through out the book.

    This book was one i read in one sitting, the night before school. I stopped near the end for about 5 minutes just crying and contemplating the tragedy that is WW2.

    I suggest you read another of Zusak's books, The Messenger, set in Australia if i remember correctly. Quite different, just don't start it with a high expectation.

    August 23, 2009 at 8:44 am
  • Karin Elizabeth

    @Elise – Thank you. I also hope this book will find many more readers 🙂

    @Addie – it's probably because I have moderation on? I did that because I've gotten a few offensive comments before, but that hasn't happened in a while so I'm probably going to turn it off 🙂
    I couldn't read The Book Thief in one go, it was too much at times..! But I loved the book, really did. And yes the little headings were such a wonderful touch.
    That said, I do own a copy of I Am The Messenger already so I'll definitely read that one!

    August 23, 2009 at 8:50 am
  • dillpickle

    I read The Book Thief a few months ago and loved it. It was one of those books that I really enjoyed the reading of it, not just the story.

    I enjoyed the unusual setting of WWII Germany for the alternative perspective. I generally avoid war books too, but this one was different. It was incredibly sad, but also highly amusing at times. I think death as the narrator brings something that lifts it from a good read to a book with profound impact that will be hard to forget.

    The pic is perfect!

    August 23, 2009 at 9:11 am
  • Arielle

    I loved your review on this book 🙂 I read The Book Thief not too long ago and it's now one of my favorites…so glad you liked it too! I want to read I Am the Messenger too, I heard it's a good one as well.

    August 23, 2009 at 8:27 pm
  • Ruby

    hey i love your reviews they are funnyyy 🙂 i have a series to recommend you it may sound childish but it is a very good their are three books City of Bones, City of Ashes and City of Glass by Cassandra Clare i literally just finished the last book and i started the series 2 days ago but if you didnt like twilight im sure if you will like this but i would love to hear ur opinion on them even if you dont like them and the pictures would be funny thankyou!

    September 4, 2009 at 9:40 am
  • Karin Elizabeth

    @Ruby Hi 🙂 Thanks for visiting and for dropping me a line to recommend books!
    I checked out the series, but after reading the summary I would probably have to say they're not for me. Maybe one day if I happen upon one of the books, but not at the moment 🙂

    September 5, 2009 at 10:36 am

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