Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief

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CW’s: Violence, Verbal Abuse, Death

A story 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. This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

Trenn Kopie


“First the colours.
Then the humans.
That’s usually how I see things.
Or at least, how I try.”

📚 I loved that the book was narrated by Death. Is it bad that I began to really like Death? Mostly he is talking matter of factly but at a few times you can see a bit of heart showing, especially as he takes a special interest in Liesel and the inhabitants of Himmel Street. He sees her three times and keeps something for her for several decades. Sometimes I forgot that death was actually narrating the story, as I got really into it, but then he would make a remark and I was reminded that Death told the story and not Liesel. He is literally the definition of foreshadowing, as Death loves to insert little remarks about the fate of other characters and tear my heart out with the immediate sense of foreboding. I was always prepared for something horrible to happen. I was minding my business and then Death would be like “oh this is the last time they see each other” … nooooo. Some people might not like that as it did spoil to a certain extend, but for me it was part of Death’s personality. He did not like to keep a mystery. Towards the end I felt like our narrator was getting more affected by the humans, prompting me to like him even more. Death is not really the villain here.

“It amazes me what humans can do, even when streams are flowing down their faces and they stagger on, coughing and searching, and finding.”

📚 Because of Liesel there was so much Book Love in here. This might be obvious from the title alone, but Liesel loves books and she steals them. I personally loved seeing her fall for books and learning to read with her father. It was great so see someone become a bookworm and work hard to read instead of being able to do so right from the beginning. Liesel begins to live for books and reads them over and over and over again, sometimes 9 to 13 times. Eventually she also reads out loud of others, so confident in her own ability. Books are precious to her and they are hard to get in her times, as they cost money her foster family does not have. That’s why she itches to steal books and does so later on numerous occasions. There is also a library and a silent agreement involved later. Towards the very end Liesel also turns to writing her own book, about the experiences here on Himmel Street. Generally I felt great sympathy for her, as she was a frightened girl who had lost so much and was thrust into a new foster family and had to fight to get respect. Liesel was nothing if not kind, but also stubborn and prone to making mistakes. After all she is a child and sometimes she snaps, acting on impulse and following her heart.

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

📚 I loved the different sections & special formatting. The book is divided in several sections that are named after the books Liesel steals in them. They include the creatively titled chapters that make you wonder what the chapter rally is about. I loved the idea behind that and especially enjoyed the special formatting throughout the book. When it’s fitting several information are formatted differently e.g. Facts about people and much more, which I greatly enjoyed as well, as it was always fitting and did not disturb my reading flow. Instead they added to the story and made it even more unique.

📚 There were quite a few interesting Minor Characters. Liesel is surrounded by many other people who star in her life. Firstly, there is Rudy, who becomes her best friend and partner in crime. There is the notion of something more, that lingers in the air between them. I liked Rudy, but at times he annoyed me a bit, always wanting to kiss Liesel. Who I dearly liked was her papa, a kind man who loves her dearly and is much softer than his wife. He teaches her how to read and is always there for his foster daughter when Liesel is having nightmares and troubles. He prompts her towards reading and can therefore be considered a central person in her life, someone who defines her. Then there is Max, the jew their family is hiding, as Papa knew his father and owns him a favor. Liesel quickly gets used to him and immensely worries about him. She finds a friend in him and always tries to make him feel better, as he cannot go outside – brining him crosswords to solve, describing the weather to him, bringing him little presents. On the other side Max leaves her a bit of his own writing as well.

📚 The writing was truly beautiful. Like all the way beautiful, because the descriptions really made me shiver. It was phenomenal to write Death this certain way and give the story this unique edge. The metaphors out narrator employed were vivid and imaginative, I especially liked the colors and how they look like when humans die. Throughout the book Death describes the humans intensely and I loved the way he was written immensely. The author had this way for writing that completely got me and hooked me, making me turn the page over and over again until I reached the end. I was itching to read more, to see how this all turned out in the end.

“Even death has a heart.” 

📚 I was getting so emotional, especially at the end. It’s impossible not to get emotional when it comes  to this book, as the topics tackled are heavy. Liesel had felt much grief in her short life and is confronted with her harsh mother and the reality of war seeping into her little village and making poverty known. Her family does not have much money and so Liesel spends her days hungry, as does her best friend Rudy. She develops a profound bound to so many people, her kind papa, the jew Max they are hiding and of course her best friend. So many heartbreaking things happened and death foreshadowing heavily did not make it easier to get closer and closer to the end. I knew it would be a hard ending, as one would expect from such a story, but it still hit me right in the feels. I am not going to spoil what happens, but it’s devastating and deeply chilling, because how dare you let things end like this?

“I am haunted by humans.” 

IN CONCLUSION: The Book Thief was an emotional, haunting book about a young girl experiencing the second world war and the holocaust. Told in the unique perspective of death, this book is sure to grip you and not let go until the every last page. You will find yourself crying, cursing and getting attached to the characters until the very end.

Talk Kopie

Have you read The Book Thief? What did you think of the end? 📚

9 thoughts on “Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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