While reading ‘The Book Thief’ I got a whole new perspective on, what it was like to live in Nazi Germany during World War II. None other than Death tells the story of Liesel Meminger, and the story was both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

by Coralie

Title:

‘The Book Thief’

Author:

Markus Zusak

Pages:

526

Reading Level:

Proficient

First published:

2005

Publisher:

Alfred A. Knopf/Random House

Feelings Thermometer:







Nazi Germany: A January day in 1939 Liesel Memingers only 6-year-old brother is buried. He should have followed her to the small town Molching where a new life awaited them. In the snow at the grave Liesel sees a little black book. Despite the fact that she can not read, she becomes curious and takes the book with her. This is Liesel Memingers first theft as an upcoming book thief.

When Lisel arrives in Molching and at her new home in Himmel Strasse 33 – where her foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann awaits her – it is the beginning of a tough and a nerve-racking time. A time where war, poverty and especially death affects most people in Europe. Also the citizens of Molching.

With help of Hans and the Jew, Hubermann’s hiding in their basement, Liesel is introduced to the world of literature and the power of words. War escalates, and with one Jew in the basement and Liesel’s increasing urge to steal books, nothing is no longer certain in Himmel Strasse 33.

Boring start, but then something happened

‘The Book Thief’ isn’t an action-packed book. It’s absolutely character driven and built up of small anecdotes – funny as well as sad – and It’s clearly an advantage to have a little knowledge about the period, for the full reading experience.

My first impression was, that the story was good, but I wasn’t blown away. I had compassion for Liesel, who had just lost her brother, and I found Death as the narrators voice interesting, but except from that, I had a hard time truly understanding all the praise that was written on the back and front of the book. As I read on, I understood more and more. The environment suddenly felt more natural, and slowly I began seeing where the story could lead me.

Loveable characters

I couldn’t help falling in love with the realistic and natural characters in ‘The Book Thief’, in particular with Liesels foster father Hans Hubermann. He helps Liesel through the tough nights where nightmares about her brother’s death is plaguing her. Also he teaches Liesel to read, even though he is not the best reader himself. He was just a so warm and lovely person, that I wished I could get to know him in real life. The persons in the story are very different and they have different backgrounds. Gradually they also fill you life in different ways, and you come to love them all.

Death as the narrator

It is none other than Death, who tells the story of Liesel Meminger. Like God, Death is looking down on Molching following Liesels life. Death as the narrator gives a very nice and unique aspect to the story. Death’s job is to collect dead bodies and set their erring souls free, so it has a lot to do during World War II.

Death witnesses all the horror humans causes to each other, but it also tries to see the beauty of the human being, among others through Liesel and those around her. It may sound very depressing with Death as the narrator, but because Markus Zusak gave Death personality and a very whimsical way to see the world, the humour in it makes it a very beautiful thing.

Excerpt from ‘The Book Thief’

“Anything good to eat at your place tonight?” he asked.
“I doubt it.
“Me neither. It’s a shame you can’t eat books. Arthur Berg said something like that once. Remember?
They recounted the good old days for the remainder of the walk, Liesel often glancing down at The Whistler, at the grey cover and the black imprinted title.

Before they went into their respective homes, Rudy stopped a moment and said, “Goodbye Saumench.” He laughed “Good night, book thief.”
It was the first time Liesel had been branded with her title, and she couldn’t hide the fact that she liked it very much. As we’re both aware, she’d stolen books previously, but in late October 1941, it became official. That night, Liesel Meminger truly became the book thief.

A very evocative and beautiful book

After reading ‘The Book Thief’ I got a whole new perspective on what it’s like being in the middle of this terrible war. Narrated by Death and through the perspective of a little girl, it portrays this small community – who faced hard times – in a very exciting and different way.

‘The Book Thief’ is about unity, family, friendship, love – and the difficult issues – war and death, but it is also a book about words and about the power that words have. Suddenly, it dawned on me how essential words actually were during World War II.

‘The Book Thief’ went straight to my heart. I cried, I laughed, I smiled … all emotions passed through me while reading. It will be really difficult to find truly interest in a new book after reading this – I just can’t let it go. Heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time — that’s the best description I can give you of ‘The Book Thief’.