Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief: A Book Review (spoiler-free)
From the very start of World War II, no one could better understand what it means to suffer than Liesel Meminger; her brother is dead, she will never see her mother again, and she’s never known her father. The only shred of hope comes to her when she steals a book she cannot read from her brother’s graveside. As conditions worsen, she is required to live with Rosa and Hans Huberman, Leisel’s newly-appointed foster family, who immediately cherish Leisel and help her cultivate her interest in reading. The story of The Book Thief is her own; how Leisel is confronted by death and suffering at every turn and how books help her overcome it.
Long before I purchased this book, I was aimlessly browsing in a bookstore when an elderly employee approached me. She asked if I needed help to which I kindly declined, though she saw that I was looming around a bookshelf which held several copies of The Book Thief. She thoughtfully explained that this novel was very good and that she came to know the author under circumstances I can’t recall. It took a few months, but I finally decided that owning this book was a priority and returned to the bookstore to make the purchase.
Although I played with the idea of making the purchase for some time, I have no qualms with buying this novel. The book is a very grounding and considers a realistic interpretation of the struggles of World War II and the experiences people shared. The story had vivid and honest characters and was brought to life by Liesel’s eagerness to find solace in people and, when they failed her, books.
The main character of the novel is candid and dutifully preserves her innocence until collapse and tragedy resurface in the novel. Liesel finds a hope in books when the goodness of reality escapes her. I also felt that Death is a most logical narrating figure to offer a story taking place during the Second World War. The all-knowing narrator provides an outside perspective of humanity and proves to have a most rational and strong voice when the reliability of humanity begins to falter.
I really enjoyed how the novel provides historical insight which paralleled works such as Night by Elie Wiesel and The Diary of Anne Frank while hosting a main character who wasn’t persecuted for her religion. Leisel’s open respect for people, regardless of religious background, was hopeful and reassures the reader that people can retain their morals during a time when all seems lost.
“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”