Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Challenge criteria: A book set in wartime


It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

What I liked:

This book is one of my all time favourites, and every time I read it I’m reminded why.

Death is a fantastic narrator. He’s cutting, blunt, realistic, humourous, and it’s one of my favourite aspects of this book. “I am haunted by humans” is one of my favourite quotes of all time. I love the portrayal of Death here. For someone who is usually seen as quite a crass, hard-hearted individual, it was lovely to see a character who dotes on children who unfortunately meet him. The image of him gently carrying them to the afterlife is a powerful and beautiful one.

What really carries this book is the incredible cast of characters. They’re all incredibly complex, flawed, and every single one of them goes through a huge amount of change and development by the end of the book.

This book is full of beautiful descriptions, and it’s one of the most lyrical books I’ve ever read.

His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do – the best ones. The ones who rise up and say “I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come.” Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out. More of them have already found their way to other places.

Every. Bloody. Time.

I adored Max’s presents to Liesel. His two books to Liesel were so thoughtful, and beautifully put together.

What I didn’t like:

My only bug bear with this book is that sometimes, Death leaves little spoilers throughout the book. He almost laid out the death toll to us in the early stages of the book, and it would have been better to go in blind. Once you start forming bonds with these characters, especially ones who go through monumental change, it’s so hard to see them go.

Out of five:

Five. Words barely do this book justice.


7 thoughts on “Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

  1. Utterly heartbreaking in places but still one of my all time favourite books. Couldn’t read this when I was pregnant, my hormones made me so emotional that I’d be sobbing my heart out as I knew what was coming up

  2. Death giving the spoilers is what made me not enjoy this book. The events foreshadowed by Death were less powerful because I already knew they were coming. I was still a little sad, but it would have affected me more if I hadn’t seen it coming. I did enjoy the cast of characters though.

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