Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Rating: 5/5

Where do I even begin? When reading this novel, I went through all the emotions; laughing, crying, bitterness and anger. It was a weighty novel but I begged for more when I flipped over the last page. I will not spoil the ending, but tears would not stop streaming down my face! I was transfixed to Liesel’s character and related to her rebellious tendencies and infant perplexities that I had as a child. This immediate love for the child only made it harder when she faced death, pain and separation; her heavy emotions are passed onto the reader, however, it heightened the content and innocent moments too.

The author’s choice of narrator is thought-provoking. I have never read a book from death’s perspective; it enhanced the sorrowful atmosphere of world war two and revealed facts and opinions you never thought of. The notes from the narrator in bold forebodes events later on in the story and this small structural addition makes the reader never want to put the book down. His messages are blatant on what will happen in the future, but, fails to present any sort of detail about how, who, when, what. Very infuriating! The narrator also (thankfully) helps the reader to pronounce or translate the German words! So, don’t worry about that.

If you’re like me and melt at the love of family and friends, then this is defiantly the book for you. Liesel’s passionate admiration for Max (a Jew, based at the bottom of the Hubermann’s basement) was eye-opening and without their friendship, the story would not be the same. She was his only friend and she helped him through suffering and resentment; making his last look at the sky positive, rather than bitter. The family love between Hans, Rosa and Liesel was another relationship to live vicariously through, although they did have a strange way of showing they liked each other. Rosa would call her husband and daughter rude names, like “Saumensch,” but it truly meant she loved them (as stated by death at the end). The father, Hans, was the selfless man every reader loves. He was strong for his family and Max but also demonstrated his true strength in his objection to be loyal to Hitler, when everyone else found it easier to follow. He was the stories hero. Not to mention his kindness and positivity towards his daughter was heart-warming. Finally, the mischievous couple of Rudy and Liesel. Their youthful friendship made me smile and I wanted to be eleven again. This was my favourite pair of all, as they stood by each other through thick and thin, hiding their true love that was sadly never said but shown in Liesel’s tears.

One last point. The chapter headings are gravitating and by that I mean, the ambiguity of them makes a reader never want to stop looking through the story. However, when I did admit defeat and have to put the book down, it made me very excited for when I next sit down with it, to reveal what was happening next from glancing at the upcoming titles. My love-hate relationship with ‘Death’s’ chapters were insightful but mainly agitated me as I watched Himmel Street decay and I knew it was coming from chapter one.