A Review: Mark Zusak's The Book Thief

I'll just come out and say it:

I finished The Book Thief.  Oh, and I finally decided to post about it, too.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mark Zusak's prize winning novel, The Book Thief follows the lives of several characters residing in Germany throughout World War II. 

Liesel Meminger, an orphan, witnesses the death of her young brother while being taken to reside with Hubermann family by her biological mother.  Liesel is ever changed by this event, and learns the pain of suffering and loss at a very early age. Once acclimated to life with Rosa and Hans Hubermann, Liesel meets Rudy, her best friend and rival.  The narrative paints the town with characters that reside alongside Liesel and her family throughout the progression of the war. 
I thought, like so many others, that the use of death as the narrator was neither contrived nor lacking.  How poignant is the fact that death is the most prevalent figure in such times? Furthermore, the fact that the novel was written to portray the lives of the Germans who so feared for their own lives was a new reading experience for me.  There's not much I can say that numerous other reviewers haven't already stated.  I've seen arguments that blame Zusak for simplifying the subject matter and the horrific crimes of the Nazi party.  However, I feel that the novel never existed to tackle a huge task of explaining the intricacies of Hitler's rise to power and the fraility of the German nation at this time.  No, Zusak is using the text to explain the power of language and human communication.  Since this is a children's novel, I hope readers understand that the subject matter has been hashed out in more palatable language, while also encouraging young readers to embark on further investigation of this time period. 

The story evokes sympathy and heartache for the individuals that suffered.  It teaches compassion while exploring the darkest sides of the human condition.  I feel that the novel hopes to convince readers of the beauty of language and the power of words. 

I feel the writing itself was not as clear and eloquent as I had imagined it would be after reviewing so many reviews.  The story, however, was a complete success.  It might not be one of my favorite reads of all time, but I certainly enjoyed it and would recommend it to fellow bookworms. 

Note: Book three of the Classics Challenge. (assumed 21st century classic)


  1. Glad you enjoyed this one! I think having Death as the narrator could have easily gone very wrong, but Zusak dealt with it very well. As you said, it doesn't feel contrived.

  2. I'm not a big history buff, but I've been fascinated with WWII and Nazi Germany ever since I took a class on Anne Frank and then later went to see her annex. I haven't read many novels that are set in WWII and this one sounds quite interesting. I don't want to sound like a snob, but I tend to steer clear of YA. Perhaps I should reconsider in favor of this book?

  3. This title was originally published as an adult title. Only later in the U.S. was it published as Y.A. In Britain they published both adult and Y.A. covers and marketed the book to both age groups. I think it's spot on for late teens and 20 somethings but certainly for anybody. Perhaps it's not quite high-brow literature but I think it's still good writing and it is, like you mention, a good story.

  4. I have been wanting to read this book for ages but haven't gotten around to it. Great review - I'll bump this one up on my list.

  5. Like you, I enjoyed it well enough. I found the language too often trite and forced. Some of the metaphors were plain weird. Yet as a YA book it's better than most.

  6. Brenna, I'm not a fan of YA either. I think it's a good story and experimentation with bullet points and pictures throughout the text made it unique. I'm not sure you'd love it, but I think you could definitely appreciate it for what it is.

    Chelle, I was unaware that it was ever marketed as an adult novel, and, frankly, that really surprises me. I don't see how it could have been. I definitely enjoyed the story aspect, and not so much the actual writing. I agree it's a novel for teens and early 20s.

    Rayna, I look forward to seeing your review.

    Monica, I definitely agree that it's much better than a lot of YA titles you hear about so frequently. And, yes, the metaphors were kind of weird and sometimes didn't make sense.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...