The Book Thief by Markus Zusak starts with a nine-year-old orphan, Liesel Meminger, in Nazi Germany. The novel follows Liesel’s childhood as she grows up with Mr. and Mrs. Hubermann as foster parents, Rudy Steiner as a best friend and Max Vandenburg as the Jew hiding in their basement. Liesel’s reputation as the Book Thief begins early on. The first book Liesel steals is The Grave Digger’s Handbook, hardly a typical read for ten-year-olds. But her love of and thirst for words, learning and books only grows as the novel continues—as so does her library. The town of Molching, where Liesel makes both friends and enemies, becomes a place of fond memories as she and the other children try to find their place in a world filled with darkness. In a world where carefully chosen words from a Book Thief can make all the difference.
I read this book for my own personal pleasure and was not required to write a review. Therefore, all comments and opinions are entirely my own.
What if something usually perceived as good was suddenly perceived as evil? What if the very idea of good and evil were suddenly not as black and white anymore?
It was about three years ago when I first read this book, but just thinking about it still warms my heart all this time later. And not many books have that affect on me.
As an intense book lover myself, I knew I would relate to the Book Thief right away. And I did. As the book progressed, I felt like I was looking through a window into Liesel’s childhood and all her defining moments. She was curious. She was quiet. She was compassionate. And she loved earnestly.
Zusak’s characters are special. They’re not like the stereotypical characters you read in other historical fiction novels. They’re one-of-a-kind; unique in their own virtues and flaws. I loved all Liesel’s friends as much as she did. They became family to me, too.
Zusak is a genius. There’s really no other way to put it. His metaphors and comparisons are unlike any I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to even describe, but they’re the kind of sentences that make you stop and think for a moment. Because you’ve never read anything worded quite like that before—and yet, you perfectly understand what he’s saying. The pacing, the chapter titles, the narration…it’s all completely different than anything I’ve ever read. I would go into more detail, but then I would have to reveal spoilers. Besides, no amount of explaining can do it justice.
This is a book you have to experience—not just hear about.
I also loved getting a peek into what Nazi Germany was like—that is, the part where the common people lived. Did the town of Molching support the Nazi cause? For the most part, they did. But they also didn’t fully understand it. They were hoodwinked just as much as the rest of the world was. They were impoverished and treated cruelly by the Nazis, but believed their lie that their misery was the Allies’ fault. Nazism was evil, but we shouldn’t immediately assume, then, that all Germans were evil, too.
It’s hard to continue this review without spoiling the end, but I’ll leave it at this: this book brought me to tears. I rarely cry while reading books, but this book tore my heart to shreds. I was in shock for days after turning the last page. It’s not a book you can just walk away from after finishing. It stays with you. It puts a dark cloud over you. But it also gives you hope. There is so much suffering in this world—before, during and after World War II. But where there is evil, goodness will always—ultimately—overcome it.
I give The Book Thief 4 out of 5 stars. I would definitely give this book 5 stars because of the lasting impact it had on me if it weren’t for the profanity. The amount of cursing really bothered me as there were repeated uses of God’s name in vain throughout the novel. Otherwise, this book is perfect. That said, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under the age of 13 as its content is very mature and dark.
Valerie Cotnoir graduated from homeschooling in 2016. She is currently studying for a BA in History through online courses with Lumerit Education while working part time at the preschool at her church. Valerie was born in Montreal, Canada, but lived for fourteen years in Plano, Texas before moving with her family to the Raleigh area in North Carolina. She is the oldest of four and has two sisters and one brother. She’s been writing since she could hold a pencil and reading books just as long. She loves having deep conversations about theology, books and movies with friends and family. Her favorite memory verse is and has been for many years John 16:33:
“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”