Review: The Book Thief

Anu Venkatesh

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, is an exquisitely crafted book about life during World War Two in Germany. The narrator, Death, tells us the story of a young, German girl named Liesel Meminger. She has just lost all of her family: her father was taken away because he was a communist, her brother died, and her mom gave Liesel away, since her mother was constantly sick and had no money to take care of Liesel. At her brother’s funeral, Liesel uncovers a single object that will change her life: a book called The Grave Digger’s Handbook

With this book as her only possession, she moves in with her foster family—the Hubermanns’—and she forms new bonds with her adoptive parents and the neighbors next door. Her foster father teaches her how to read every night, and Liesel falls in love with books and the beauty of words. 

However, the world Liesel currently lives in is a very dangerous place. When her foster family decides to hide a Jewish man in their basement, her innocent perspective of life shifts completely.  

Will their family be able to get away with such a dangerous act? 

Aside from the main plot, the most captivating part of the novel is its narrator — Death. Having Death as a narrator offers readers a completely different perspective on what Death actually is; he interacts with the reader frequently and often gives his perspective on the present events. Throughout the novel, Death struggles with the notion that humans can cause large amounts of destruction, but so much beauty at the same time. 

Using foreshadowing, the book brings suspense in Death’s accidental reveal of information as he skips ahead in the timeline. However, because death only exposes small parts of the future, the story is not spoiled, and more than enough to keep readers flip page after page.

This, coupled with such poetic and beautiful writing, makes The Book Thief a truly amazing book. It takes on a different perspective of Nazi Germany, and gives readers a feel of what everyday life was like living there. The characters are deep, flawed, and humane, and it’s hard not to get emotionally attached to them.  Overall, The Book Thief is a spectacular novel filled with different perspectives, deep insights, real and flawed characters, and a beautiful story about the Holocaust and life in Nazi Germany. I definitely recommend this book to everyone, and I can assure that once you start reading, you will be unable to put it down.

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