Book Review · Fiction · The Buddy Reading Club

Book Review : The Book Thief by Markus Zusak @picadorbooks @penguinrandom

Title : The Book Thief

Author : Markus Zusak

Genre : Historical Fiction ; Classic ; Young Adult ; Children ; War ; World War II ; Holocaust

Pages : 552

‘A small fact:

You are going to die….does this worry you?’

-Death

BLURB

THIS IS THE TALE OF THE BOOK THIEF.

AS NARRATED BY DEATH.

AND WHEN DEATHE TELLS YOU A STORY,

YOU REALLY HAVE TO LISTEN.

It’s just a small story really – about,

amongst other things:

A GIRL

AN ACCORDIONIST

SOME FANATICAL GERMANS

A JEWISH FIST FIGHTER

AND QUITE A LOT OF THIEVERY

I have seen a great many things. I have attended all the world’s worst disasters and worked for the greatest of villains. And I’ve seen the greatest wonders. But it’s still like I said it was: no one lives forever.

REVIEW

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is one of the most critically acclaimed books in the industry. If you simply go and google “30 books everyone should read at least once in their lives” or “100 best books of all time” or anything similar, you will definitely find The Book Thief to be one among them.

The Book Thief has always been on our TBR list because of the good reputation it has gained over the years. When we decided to write reviews together, we unanimously chose The Book Thief to be the first book we wanted to review on ThenNerdy Bookarazzi.

So, let’s get into the reviewing part without any further ado. The Book Thief takes place in the backdrop of the Second World War when Hitler and Nazi Germany were at their peak. The plot line of the book revolves around a little girl after whom the title is named The Book Thief aka Liesel.

Right from the moment you start reading the book, the book will haul your attention in no time because the narrator of this book is the much-feared Death itself. The way Death narrates the story and takes you forward with the plot is mind-blowing. There was always a sense of foreboding at every turn of the page, as we were afraid Death is going to cruelly take away one of our favourite characters. This feeling kept us at the edge of our seats. Mortality is one of the major themes of the book and since the book revolves around World War 2, genocide, and Nazis, it was super apt that Death was the narrator. The choice of words Death used was also interesting and sarcastic.

It was the book she wanted… She wouldn’t tolerate having it given to her by a lonely, pathetic old woman. Stealing it, on the other hand, seemed a little more acceptable. Stealing it, in a sick kind of sense, was like earning it.

Liesel Meminger is a young girl who never knew how to read, yet she particularly loves stealing books. This habit of her starts after the death of her younger brother. She finds a book during her brother’s funeral service and steals it. Thus starts the stealing endeavour that earns her the name the Book Thief. Liesel is sent to foster care as it was no longer safe to live with her mother and she starts living with her new foster parents who have more layers to them than what they showcase to the world. Her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann are simple people who don’t lead much of a sophisticated life but they have enough to feed and give shelter to Liesel. How her life changes and the people she meets after coming to Molching is the story of this book.

The author has successfully brought about the feel of the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Right from the beginning of the book, you will be seamlessly transported to that timeline in a jiffy. Zusak has described Germany during one of the worst parts of its history, from the eyes of little children whose main concerns were school and football games. Only a few authors can authentically write period plot lines without sounding fake or forced. While reading the book, you might feel like Himmel Street is not that different from your neighbourhood, if not for the Jewish haters and crazy nationalists. At the end of the book, in the author’s note, Markus Zusak said his parents have German roots and he could envisage his parents’ lives during Hitler’s time, by listening to their endless and amazing stories. It made us remember the stories of our grandparents, and how he absorbed their stories and was able to come about with an interesting and impactful storyline was remarkable.

This book has a lot of interesting characters whose storylines intertwine beautifully with each other to form a bigger picture. As we said earlier, Hans and Rosa Hubermann will haul your attention. Rosa was especially very unique. There was so much to not like but so much more to like about her. As a couple, they seemed rather odd, with not much in common and Rosa calling Hans a Saukerl (Bastard in German) replacing the usual darling and sweetheart. However, what stood out was the common ideologies the couple had, despite all their differences. They stood together throughout the impossible circumstances around them.

Then we have Rudy Stiener, who happens to be Liesel’s neighbour, best friend, and partner in crime. He is the life of the book. Once you start the book, the author will set the tone, which is pretty much serious and you will feel like there wouldn’t be much goofing around, whereas with Rudy’s mere presence the entire surrounding gets uplifted. He has a fantastic backstory which will raise your respect for him. As the author himself says Rudy is someone we all will be rooting for throughout the book. 

We have Max Vandenburg whose side of the story is the cause of unease throughout the book. His backstory and how he got linked with Liesel and the Hubermanns was a testament to the perfect storytelling skills of the author. His relationship with the Hubermanns and what he brings to Liesel’s life as a young oppressed man in Nazi Germany made our hearts wrench with the overall injustice of his situation. There are other characters like Isla Hermann, Frau Holtzapfel and Erik Vandenburg who play an integral part with their minimalist yet silent, brave & rebellious roles.

The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.

Liesel’s relationship with every character in this book, starting from her Papa to Max, was so pure and innocent. There were illustrations in the book that were poignant and would have made a mini-comic book within the book, that was simply amazing. These illustrations were supremely thought-provoking.

Throughout the book, the author subtly yet strongly emphasised the importance of Freedom through various symbolic representations. The idea that words have so much power, to evoke something in people, that can be so cruel and inhumane and at the same time, words also give hope. Liesel, through her innocent love for books, makes us understand this complex truth, with an ease that only a child can exhibit. Banning books, burning books, dividing people, all these seem relevant even in today’s world.  Zusak has also quoted the importance of literacy and being well informed. This book is pertinent in understanding history, to ensure those mistakes are not repeated.

I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.

This is one of the best books we have read so far. This book had everything, it talks about dictatorship and the life of the common people during the era, it talks about friendship, familial relationships, love, societal issues, trauma, and whatnot. It was heart-warming, heart-touching & heart-wrenching, in that order. This is that one book you should read at least once in your lifetime and make others read it as well.

Our rating for this book would be undoubtedly 5 out of 5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Here’s the link to buy the book!

Hope you will love this book as much as we did! Do leave your comments saying how did you liked this book.

Stay tuned to read our discussion over this book!

Happy Reading Folks!

~ Meenu & Suchi