This book does not have any hard spoilers — but if you’d like to read The Book Thief with no prior biases/insights, please choose another Her Campus article to read instead!
I am equally torn to shreds and ripped into pieces over what has happened in this book. What was going through Zusak’s head when he was writing all of this? How did he finish this book when he surely must have been crying to himself every night over what he penned in some of these chapters?
I have just finished reading Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief,” a New York Times #1 Bestseller and a winner for multiple other book awards. Here are my thoughts about this heart-wrencher of a novel, presented in the form of an article made with tears
“The Book Thief” was published in 2005, a little over fifty years since Anne Frank’s, “The Diary of a Young Girl”’s publication date. It’s a standalone book, without frustrating cliffhangers and super-mysterious backstories. Death himself narrates the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl who moved into her foster home on a poor German street while the seeds of Nazism are spreading throughout the nation. As she matures from an adolescent to a preteen, she uses her love of books, thievery, and storytelling to uplift her family, her neighbors, and the Jew hiding in her basement!
I’m still an emotional wreck while I’m writing this, but this is by far my favorite book right now. The featured characters played a large portion in my favorable review. The good souls of Himmel Street woved their way into my heart and there weren’t any characters in the novel that I downright disliked, excluding Hitler. I adored reading about the relationships Liesel developed as she learned to read from her Papa, Hans Hubermann, dropped off laundry with her Mama, Rosa Hubermann, and stole repeatedly from the mayor’s wife, Ilsa Hermann. One particular character I held a soft spot for was her best friend, Rudy Steiner. Death constantly describes his hair having the “color of lemons,” and while he has his tempered moments, he’s shown to genuinely care and stick up for Liesel when no one else would. Zusak said himself that he thought Rudy as her “most unforgettable friend,” and a particular scene featuring Rudy was “the most devastating part of the book for me[Zusak] to write.”
I also enjoyed having Death as the narrator, and the perspective he brought as an outsider who understands the characters’ deeper motivations and thoughts. Unlike the creepy, scythe-carrying and skull-faced vision most think of, Death actually comes across as someone who feels more tired and weary of a never-ending workday than anything spooky.
On the other hand, making me love these characters so much brings the worst of my very few shortcomings with this novel: which was how devastated I was once I read through the misfortunate experiences of Liesel and the people around her. Something interesting with this novel is that certain twists are “spoiled” by Death before they happen. One might think that this takes away from the surprise, but it instead introduced a different element to the reading experience. It was incredibly painful reading through all the happy memories they made together, knowing that it would hurt less for them had they not been together at all. Finding out about inner thoughts and promises knowing that they’ll never be spoken out loud or fulfilled was heartbreaking. However, seeing that this was the worst thing for me with the book, I’d say that this is pretty banger of a novel.
In conclusion, “The Book Thief” is a must-read and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who would like their heart thrown into the back of a garbage truck driving through a smoldering town littered with ashes. 6/6 stolen books.