You'll also find this review on my blog
As most of you will know, The Book Thief is my all-time favourite book. I recently read it for the third time (EDIT: Since writing this review, I've actually read it again) and I enjoyed just as much as when I read it for the first time two years ago. I’m always recommending it to people - even those who don’t necessarily read books - and I’m often asked why I consider it such a wonderful book. I’m sure this review will be inadequate at expressing what this book means to me but hopefully it will do just enough.
The Book Thief is more than just a war story. It’s a story about a girl and her words, those she reads and then those she later writes for herself. Liesel Meminger, the protagonist, is a character I can easily relate to for this reason. The characters are the heart of the story, as I felt so strongly attached to them for the entire duration of the novel that it was almost painful to say goodbye to them at the end. No character is the same and their relationships with Liesel differ, just as the reasons why I care for them differ. Hans Hubermann, the loving father that taught Liesel the words she loved so much; Rosa Hubermann, who had a bigger heart than people would have realised; Rudy Steiner, the saukerl who so badly wanted the book thief’s kiss; Max Vandenburg, who became the brother Liesel had lost; and so on.
Any other writer would have written this book from Liesel’s perspective. Yet Markus Zusak considered the irony of having Death himself be the narrator. It is such an effective method of storytelling and makes it all the more poignant and dramatic. Death and war go so well together, after all. I honestly feel that the book wouldn’t be the same without death’s commentary. The writing itself is simply beautiful. Markus Zusak uses plenty of metaphors and emotive language, creating powerful imagery and a vast collection of memorable quotes. I’d go as far to say, regardless of my bias considering how much I adore this book, it’s a modern classic - I’m pleased to hear some schools have it as part of their curriculum now. A negative in some eyes may be the book’s slow pace at times. The developing plot is a gradual thing but by the end, after a few hints from death along the way, it will all come together. Just keep on reading and you’ll be rewarded!
This has been a difficult review to write, as I always find it easier to write about things I dislike than things I love. With the latter I’m always worried I’ll forget to mention something important or I’ll not do it justice. It is far easier for me to just say ‘I love this book so much’. The Book Thief is one of those books that I didn’t just enjoy, but one I have such a strong connection with. I love everything about it, from the characters to the books within it that Liesel discovers, receives and steals. Whenever Markus Zusak speaks about the book, its clear how much it means to him. That to me is also important, as I love when an author is truly passionate about their work and has a personal connection to it. In this case, the story is based in part on stories told by his German parents about the war. As a history student, I find the historical aspect of the period in which the novel is set particularly interesting and can assure you that is accurate. Most importantly, not all Germans were Nazis willingly. A lot of people don’t realise that and I love the book’s portrayal of characters like Alex Steiner who did what he had to for his family and the Hubermanns who harbored a Jew in their basement behind closed doors. The novel is made all the more emotional with the knowledge that it is a piece of fiction set amongst events in reality. There really were Jews who dreamed of fighting Hitler in basements, boys who wished they could be like Jesse Owens, men who risked their lives to save those who did not deserve persecution, and young girls who have hated and loved words.
It’s a pleasure reading Markus Zusak’s books and I hope that one day you’ll all have that pleasure. If you were going to read any book that I recommend to you, it has to be this one. So please, read this book. It might wreck havoc on your emotions but you’ll love it all the same.
I was lucky enough to receive a signed copy of this book back in May, after writing to Markus and basically rambling about how much I LOVE his books. It's German but I wouldn't dare read something so precious anyway, out of fear of ruining it. Isn't it beautiful? Words cannot describe how amazing it feels to have it. It's my only signed book but since it's my favourite, it's worth millions.