Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I finished reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and as a whole I loved it. It’s touching on so many levels, such as friendship, death, family and survival that brought me to tears in the end. As for the end, I expected more from such a heart wrenching story mixed with facts of horrific acts of mankind and characters that come to life. I wanted and expected an explanation of a better life for Liesel, but Mr. Zusak didn’t want to tie it up in a little red bow. But even though I didn’t appreciate the end, I fell in love with Mr. Zusak’s writing so it didn’t reduce the quality or the beauty of what he set out to do, which was reach people with his words and facts. I highly recommend this book.

Because of the subject matter and his talent for writing, I was surprised to find out this is for young adults. Set in Nazi Germany in 1939, the narrator, Death meets Liesel, the book thief for the first time on a train during the death of her brother. Her mother leaves her in the care of foster parents, Rosa and Hans Hubermann, who become two very important people in her life. Hans teaches Liesel the beauty and strength of words by learning how to read, and Rosa, a hard shell of a woman with inner softness teaches Liesel pride and love. Liesel’s best friend Rudy helps her get through some of her childhood, and Liesel recognizes the evil that dictates Germany by obtaining a close bond with Max Vandenburg, the Jew Papa and Mama hide in their basement. Death is intrigued by Liesel while at the same time expresses his thoughts about humans in general. But he has a job to do.

I started reading this book on the plane during my recent vacation to Germany, and because I’m a little over half German.
It’s shocking to know Adolph Hitler was able to convince his people that Jews were a disease. This book opens your eyes to the power of words. Markus Zusak showed me the power of his words as he wrote, “I traveled the globe as always, handing souls to the conveyor belt of eternity.” And, “Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day. That was the business of hiding a Jew.”

Thank you, Markus Zusak for showing me some of the struggles of life, death and the power of words.


  1. my grandparents left their home in Germany in 1926 to move here. My grandfather went back for 6 months in the mid 1930's to see how things had changed. He said it was scary and refused to move his family back there. Once when watching a documentary on Hitler, I asked my grandmother about him. She said that despite being totally fluent in German, she could not understand what he said. She described it as being mesmerized by him, by his words and his actions and his rhetoric. He was one scary man. Thanks for the recommendation for the read.


  2. The power of words. It is immense, isn't it. Beautiful, yet sometimes frightening too. I've heard of this book, but haven't read it. Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. Hey AmandaLyn, That’s interesting that your grandmother couldn’t understand him. I heard that from another German person who watched a documentary on him. I wonder if it was the quality of the film clip, or his pronunciations were thick. Either way, he had the ability to lead through his words and action. Thanks for stopping by.

    Hi Joanne, Words are beautiful and frightening because it’s the people who put the power into them.

    I'm glad you both liked the recommendation. Maybe we can start an online book club. :)

  4. "The Book Thief" is a wonderful work of art, touching on many themes at many levels. It is also beautifully printed. One of the themes of the book is how reading effects lives, how the books we read shape us long after we may have forgotten the plots. I look forward to reading a lot more books by Markus Zusak