Markus Zusak: The Book Thief

I’ve been hearing many good things about this book for a while now, and when I last went into Waterstones there weren’t as many books that I wanted to read – so I decided I’d give this one a try! And for one, I’m a big fan of books that write about books!

This book is about a girl called Liesel Meminger who is fostered by the Hubermann family during World War 2. As the book is named, she becomes a book thief – stealing books when the opportunity arises and advancing her skills at reading with the help of Hans Hubermann who turns a blind eye to her thievery. However, what makes this book so interesting is the viewpoint that the narrative is told. It is clear that this is Liesel’s story from the story she wrote, The Book Thief. The story as it is told to us however, is told from the point of view of Death – a concept I find quite interesting as we get both a first person viewpoint of events taking place whilst also a third person omniscient viewpoint. Zusak pulls this off brilliantly, and allows us to understand each individual character and how the events of World War 2 have affected them. From the viewpoint of Death, we are also able to understand the narratives of characters that Liesel may not know about. For example, when Hans Hubermann goes to war we are able to perceive how events are unraveling for him, and how these may be affecting Liesel who is safe at home.

A lot of emotions come and go throughout the story: sadness, anger, betrayal, laughter, love. And I could really feel these emotions. I found myself laughing, or crying, as I became fully engrossed in Liesel’s story. And it was interesting to have a different take on World War 2 within Germany itself and how they had to basically, put up, with what was going on knowing that if they went against the Fuhrer, they would be beaten or deemed as Jewish sympathisers. You get to see and understand the situation that some Germans dealt with by being sympathisers, and the consequences for such an act taking place.

Zusak’s use of the German language throughout the novel gives an authentic feel about the narrative, the harsh intonations of the language clearly coming through in the dialogue and allowing me to visually feel the words and the way that they are perceived by the characters. It truly helped to understand the harsh reality of the era, with much of the German language being used during times of trouble and animosity.

This was definitely a first class book to read and loved the different stories told from the viewpoint of Death. It is clear to see why this novel is so popular.

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