Book Review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak – 2005 – Historical Fiction

Goodreads Summary:

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 accordian-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.

My Thoughts:

The first thing to say about this book is I can see why it’s so popular. I think the book’s narrator being death is a really unique way to look at the book. There are a lot of books set at the time of the world wars, but having this type of narrator allowed for a darker overview of the situation at that time in Germany than if Liesel had been the narrator herself.
My favourite part of this novel was Zusak’s creativity – from the narrator as death to scenes such as Max’s stories for Liesel. I also thought he created really oppressive and tense scenes, in particular when the Nazi’s are searching the basement or when Liesel knows someone has seen her stealing from the fire. I watched the film before I read the book, and this is definitely an example of when I prefer the film over the book, but Zusak’s ideas are stunning.

I also thought the characters were really well developed. My favourites were Max and Papa, and I loved that the men in this book were strong without being overbearing on the women, and it was actually Mama who “wore the trousers”. I like how we saw normal people from the War period, and how someone who opposed the Nazi regime had to be in order to protect their family. I loved the relationships Liesel built with her foster parents, especially given her trepidation when she first meets them, although I do wish we could have seen more about her parents and brother.
My only real issue with this novel was that it was about 200 pages too long. I didn’t enjoy all the descriptions that the author felt the need to include, and I didn’t feel there was enough plot to sustain a book that is nearly 600 pages. I am not a fan of literary and descriptive writing in novels as it takes me away from the story, although I think if you enjoy beautiful writing you’d definitely enjoy this book.
I hesitate to say I enjoyed the ending of this book, but it was definitely well ended with clear answers for what happened to each of the main characters.
I gave this book 3/5. I really enjoyed the plot, but I just didn’t get on with Markus Zusak’s writing – it’s too flowery for me.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Book Thief

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