The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Review by Chloe in Year 9
Library age rating: KS3+ (this book contains mature themes so is best suited to Year 8+)
Genre: historical fiction
Content warning: death, suicide, grief, violence, cruelty, war
This book follows the life of a German girl living in the Second World War, but the story is told from the point of view of Death. Although it is a work of historical fiction, the work is loosely based on the life of the author's mother. When the protagonist's mother is no longer able to take care of her, Liesel Meminger is taken in by foster parents, Hans and Rosa Huberman. In a town near Munich, she comes to call it home. There she quickly settles down, making friends with the other children on her street, going to school and attending the compulsory ‘Hitler Youth’. Liesel witnesses the cruelty of the holocaust, she feels the fear of hiding in air raid shelters, and she cries out with injustice at the way Hitler and the Nazis are destroying words. Liesel is haunted by nightmares of her brother, who died on the journey to the Hubermans, and whose death sparked an unusual addiction: stealing books.
I LOVE this book! From the moment I picked it up, to the moment I put it down: pure enjoyment. I don’t know what I expected when reading this book, but it definitely exceeded all of my expectations. In fact, I cannot praise this book highly enough, but I’ll do my best to persuade you that you HAVE to read it. Where to start? The writing itself - it was pure gold: masterful storytelling, in matter of fact yet beautiful way, with jewels of metaphor and other imagery gracing every page. The comparisons Zusak draws in his imagery are very unique, if not strange, at times, but very, very effective. Secondly, this book had a fascinating narrator: Death. It was a fascinating viewpoint, and such a cunning device for not only bringing what is quite a bitty novel together as whole, but also allowing the author to add personal commentary and using this character to voice philosophical ponderings, I feel he has probably always wanted to share, but in a very fitting, and in keeping way. Finally, it was VERY moving; I can’t not mention that! I don’t think it’s is a spoiler to say that it is one of the most heart-breaking books I have ever read - I haven’t cried so much over a book in ages! You know throughout the book that it’s going to be a heartbreaker - there’s constant foreshadowing, but that doesn’t loosen the shock or numb the pain. Furthermore, small little motifs and seemingly insignificant themes are carried right through the book to the very end, making it all the more tragic. Very heartfelt and cleverly done.
None really- except that I’m very angry with Zusak for how he ended the plot - I’m sure you’ll agree when you have read it. But I still wouldn’t change it; writing something so moving is testament to his huge talent as an author.
If you like wartime novels then I’d also really recommend The Boy in Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (also very moving), The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. You should also try The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.