The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief.jpg

The Story

“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

My Thoughts

Unratable. Aka, it’s my favorite book.

This book destroyed me in the best possible way. Thank you, my Adolescent Literature class, for forcing me to finally read this piece of art.

Disclaimer: semi-spoilerly of characters.

Death, you sly entity, you. You revealed everything slowly, but you still managed to have me in tears in the end. I was still not prepared for it all. I reserved my sobbing for the last 30 pages. You built up and narrated their world so perfectly, it felt too real. The imperfections in their lives became perfections in my eyes. How did Zusak do this? How did he make Nazi Germany seem not so bad? It was almost as if hope and happiness could always overshadow greed and destruction.

Their characters’ happiness became my happiness, and I so desperately want to join them in their world. I want to help Liesel read; I want to lose a race to Rudy; I want to hear Hans play the accordion; and I want Rosa to yell vulgarities at me.

My class and I discussed these very themes within the book. There are many dualities to pull from it, but the overall theme we agreed to was universal human nature. How do we act in times of hopelessness and sadness? How do we cope? What do we do that defines us as human beings? As Death said itself, “I am haunted by humans.” This quote still lingers with me. It tells us that Death can even admire us humans and that maybe, even a little, Death contains a small amount of humanity. Does that not seem like a contradiction of our perceived norms of Death? Don’t we usually see Death, in Western civilization, as an awful presence and phenomenon that should be avoided? Zusak does an amazing job of changing Death’s image. You have to read it to find out, though.

This was more like a rant than a review, but anyway, I had no trouble listing The Book Thief as one of my “all-time favorite books.”

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