So this morning, I was trying to decide what to post today. Thursdays are usually book reviews, but I hadn’t finished anything new since last week. I was flipping through my book review page and was shocked to see that I had never reviewed The Book Thief here on the blog. How is this possible! I must have reviewed it years ago on another site, but it definitely didn’t happen on this blog, and that must be rectified immediately!
Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Series: Nope, standalone
Blurb: It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.
By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.
In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
Review: And now I have to come up with coherent thoughts about this book when, honestly, even a re-read completely blows me away. This is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read. There are many, many books about Nazi Germany, both fiction and non-fiction, but I’ve never heard of one told from the perspective of Death. Like, a personification of Death, who is, of course, super busy because of the war, but is still fascinated by this young girl who he sees stealing a book when her little brother died. Death is an interesting character, which I realize is a weird sentence to write, but I do like this version of him. He’s not scary, he’s just doing his job, but he’s not unaffected by it. He has empathy for the humans who are dying around him, which you wouldn’t expect.
Now let’s talk about Liesel. She is amazing, spunky, and one of the strongest characters I think I’ve ever met. Her little brother dies, her mother leaves her with strangers, and yet, Liesel is able to grow and rebuild her life. The main reasons for that are her foster family, the Hubermanns – particularly her foster father, Hans – and her best friend, Rudy. All of these characters are so well written, they practically leap off the page. And then there’s Max, the young Jewish man that the Hubermanns try to help by hiding him in their basement. His journey is so tragic and scary and beautiful, in that order. His friendship with Liesel is nothing short of magic.
While you can probably guess that this story does not have a happy ending, I’m not going to go into details here because there are things that could be spoiled. I will say that reading this book taught me more about the atrocities of World War II more than any history class I’ve ever taken. It wasn’t just about the physical abuse and destruction, but also the mental and emotional toll it took on everyone, especially the Jews. People who were just trying to go about their lives had their lives completely torn apart.
This is a book that everyone needs to read. Period.
GoodReads rating: 5 stars
Categories: Books I've Read