Saturday, June 4, 2011

Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Rating: 5/5
Why I read it: Went on clearance for $5 at my work and I had heard good reviews so I bought it and for some reason I chose it off of the overflowing bookshelf to bring with me for the conference trip.
From the back: 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 Grave Digger'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.

My opinion: My favourite book I have read this year. I really thought this book was beautiful, a difficult task considering the harsh subject matter of the Holocaust. The relationship between Liesel and her foster-father is truly touching and I love the basement scenes with her and Max. The story shows that there were families and children that did not get caught up with the propaganda and the hatred spread by the Nazi party campaign and those that knew what was happening to the Jews was wrong, but it also displays their complete helplessness to actually do anything to help. As Liesel learns how to read she learns the power of words and their part in Hitler's rise. The two big highlights of the story for me were the homemade books from Max. They touched my heart and almost brought tears to my eyes. The remnants of Mein Kampf that occasionally shone through the pages were a constant reminder that this hateful ideology cannot ever completely be covered but it does not have to eliminate all hope. The self depiction by Max of himself as a bird as opposed to human reminded me of Maus and Spielgelman's depiction of the Jews as mice. The physical differences between Jews and Germans are really a cultural creation proved by the fact that Max is able to travel with fake German papers for a time and that Liesel cannot see the difference between them because she is a child raised in a non-hateful family. But is a construct that has been so drilled into them that even Max sees himself as different- as undeserving of comfort and kindness. The little asides that pepper the book were a little jarring at first but then I got used to them and think it was an interesting writing style. The usage of Death as the narrator was brilliant, and it allowed a commentary on humanity from an involved outsider perspective. Basically I thought this was a brilliant book at will not disappoint, however, it is not a happy book despite how much hope is within the pages. Just read it saumensch.

  • "and for comfort, to shut out the din of the basement, Liesel opened one of her books and began to read."
  • "The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy that loves you"

  • "Often I wish this would all be over, Liesel, but then somehow you do something like walk down the basement steps with a snowman in your hands."

  • "She said it out loud, the words distributed into a room that was full of cold air and books. Books everywhere! Each wall was armed with overcrowded yet immaculate shelving. It was barely possible to see paintwork. There were all different styles and sizes of lettering on the spines of the black, the red, the gray, the every-colored books. It was one of the most beautiful things Liesel Meminger had ever seen. 
       With wonder, she smiled.        That such a room existed!"
  • "In years to come, he would be a giver of bread, not a stealer - proof again of the contradictory human being. So much good, so much evil. Just add water."


  1. This made me want to read this book. I saw it at Bookworm in waterloo last week and almost bought it because of your blog-review but I didn't like the cover on the copy they had hahhaha I'm far too picky about covers. It's lame.

  2. Did the cover have dominoes on it? like this:
    Because that's the cover mine has and I hate it. The cover I used here is so much more fitting for the book.