The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’ve been seeing The Book Thief included in The New York Times top ten best seller’s list whenever I browse through the newspaper’s online website. At first, the book didn’t catch much of my attention because it’s not the usual genre I read. Several months later, however, after much deliberation, I was finally able to convince myself to grab a copy and read it.

Here’s the summary from the back cover of the book:

By her brother’s graveside, Liesel Meminger’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up and closed down.

While reading The Book Thief, it somehow reminds me of Number the Stars. Evidently, the book is set during the period of Hitler’s reign in Germany, his cruelty and selfishness, and the emergence of World War. As we all know from history, Hitler hated the Jews and this book flawlessly describes just how much he despised them. The mood of the story is just right to let the readers get a taste and glimpse of what it’s like to live during those times. And trust me, you would never want to be born in that era. I could never imagine myself to be in that position, too.

Moving on, I like how Markus Zusak molds the characters to make them become more realistic in any reader’s eyes. A word shaker she is, Liesel has the most complex characteristic of all. She may just be a child which justifies/explains her ignorance, but she shows to have the biggest heart of all. She becomes a changed person as she grows older and her willingness to learn definitely influences her maturity. Moreover, her foster parents, Hans and Rosa, may not be the perfect parents anyone would dream of having, but their love for Liesel is immeasurable. Rudy, on the other hand, is courageous – someone who would go an extra mile just for a friend and is never afraid to be himself. And finally, Max is a Jew who dreams of being free someday. As the story progresses, readers will come to a conclusion that Max and Liesel actually share some similarities more than they imagined and their lives are surprisingly altered by one another with words.

The Book Thief is such a unique book as it is written beautifully and creatively in a descriptive narrative from the point of view of death. It’s quite amusing that the color it symbolically uses clearly depicts the mood of the story. Markus Zusak did not fail to capture each moment in writing perfectly. Readers could actually reach into the hearts of the characters and empathize with them. I also love the author’s writing style. The way he has written and organized the story pushes me to turn one page after another, never wanting to put the book down.

It’s really nice to read something different once in a while. One would expect that the story might be boring since death is the one narrating, but I come to enjoy every bit of the story and it has certainly, without a doubt, captured and touched my heart. This may be hard to admit, but yes, reading this book makes me agree that even death has a heart.

By just the title itself, one cannot overlook the fact that the book centers on a theme about reading, that it consummates the soul by giving life and hope to the reader which enables him to be transported into a world he’s never been to. In Liesel’s case, reading is her way to reconnect with her loved ones – seeking comfort and security despite the harsh world playing in reality. Liesel’s hunger for words and her indulgence in it become her sole reason to steal books.

With this said, Markus Zusak definitely succeeds in his purpose of conveying a message that words mean everything. While Hitler uses words to destroy people, Liesel, on the other hand, tries to steal them back and somehow bring salvation and beauty from it. Words can certainly be as powerful and sharp as a sword and it’s really up to the beholder to use them for good or for evil, to hurt or to heal, to bring courage and hope or fear to the people.

Hands down to this book. I just love everything about it. It vastly exceeds my expectations. Markus Zusak is able to weave a beautiful and inspiring story that no words can express how impressed I am by it. The storyline, character development, theme, setting and mood, the depth of the message it tries to convey – the combination of all these elements makes this book just perfect. It’s certainly hard to come across this kind of book and I don’t regret to have bought it. The book has given me a new perspective about reading and life. No one is too old or too young to read The Book Thief. And I can confidently say that after reading this book, not only does it inspire me, but it leaves me hungry for more.


About Rhin

Expression through words. Finding contentment in the simple things in life. Embracing opportunities. Daring to live her dream. View all posts by Rhin

5 responses to “The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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