The book thief by Markus Zusak
A review by HonoyLeafs Blog
Author: Markus Zusak (Australian)
Published In: 2005
Publishing House: Picador
Genre: Historical fiction
Why I picked up the book:
I really regret of not picking up this book earlier! However, I picked up the book majorly for three reasons:
(a) it is a historical fiction
(b) it is a sensation on book tube
(c) I was fascinated to see Death as the narrator.
The book thief depicts a story that takes place during the devastating second world war. Needless to say, that at that time Hitler, was at the peak of his powers and hatred for the Jews was a common phenomenon. In this state of confusion, Death narrates the story of a girl named Liesel, who he observes carefully. The story spans over 4-5 years. Liesel is perhaps the ideal book lover one comes across, she doesn’t have a fascination for any specific genres of books but picks them up or rather steals them from every available place: be it a graveyard or a library. She at a very young age has understood the power of words and so engages herself in reading. She finds solace in books, she escapes the horrors of war through books and ultimately we find her penning down her own story.
The writing style of the author is engaging and it is narrated in such a smooth manner as if you are hearing a lovely story from your grandparents and not reading something from a book. The words of the book touch you at the right places. The German words and phrases are included in the narration effortlessly, and it gives an authentic feel to the writing. You need not be intimidated by the frequent use of the foreign words because the translation is smoothly included as well. The author successfully transports you to the dark times of Nazi Germany and you become a part of the experience of the characters depicted in the story.
One of the most important factors to fall in love with this book are the characters. They are beautifully portrayed and are relatable. Let me give you a glimpse of them:
Liesel Meminger is the protagonist of the story. At a young age, she has experienced a lot. She is a fighter, she fights for herself as well as for her adoptive family. She cares for her friends and at certain instances also portrays her presence of mind. She is intrigued to steal books and it is only reading that she finds solace in.
Then there is Rudy Steiner, who has the appearance of the boy next door; he is the sidekick of Liesel in her actions and also her best friend.
Liesel’s foster father Hans Hubermann, is a loving father. He is a man of his words and believes in humanity more than racism. He is practical, so he goes on to join the club of Nazis despite the fact that he hates Hitler’s attitude. He is caring and would do every possible thing to protect his family.
Liesel’s foster mother, Rosa Hubermann is a loudmouthed woman who always uses curse words but has a loving heart.
Then comes Max Vandenburg, a Jewish fist fighter who takes shelter in the basement of the Hubermann’s. His struggles not only include keeping himself safe but also the continuous guilt feeling to abandon his family and to put the Hubermanns in danger.
And finally, we move to my favourite character DEATH. Death helms the burden of being the narrator of the story, and what better way to dictate a story that has war as the backdrop than through the eyes of Death. We come across many literary pieces where Death is personified but only to have an omniscient presence. Here Death is a character of flesh and blood. He is affectionate, he wants to be friendly, he believes he is amiable but not nice; because obviously, death has nothing to do with being nice. He has an omniscience presence as well, he knows the past as well as the future. At certain points in the story, it would appear that Death is acting as a spoiler but in Death’s own word, he is simply preparing us for the coming shock. You would be told that a mishap is about to happen but you cannot guess when and how it would take place.
Others: There are many other characters who play a significant role in forming the sub-plot of the novel. Every character has their own suffering and Zusak makes sure that we bond with them, and to such an extent that the suffering they go through would wrench our heart!
Criticism: If I need to mention a drawback of the book, it would be that it is a very long read. There is a lot going on, the story shifts between past and present and a number of sub-plots are also functioning simultaneously. But it is hardly any flaw because the events are arranged systematically and don’t make us confused. The story is not dragged and the sub-plots that majorly serves as the back story of many supportive characters, actually help us comprehend the horrors of war.
There are a lot more things to be said about the book, but I should stop typing now otherwise the review would not remain a spoiler-free one. If you get any chance to lay your hands on the book then please do read it. Even if you don’t fall in love with the book, there is a lot to take back. The book would always be close to my heart and I rated it 5/5 stars on good reads.
Keep on reading,
love Honeyleafs 😊