Saturday 29 January 2011

Zusak, Markus "The Book Thief"

Zusak, Markus "The Book Thief" - 2005

This was really a success in our book club. Most of the members loved it, only one said she couldn't get into it easily, the other one didn't like certain parts, e.g. Death as a narrator.

From the beginning: This is the story of a little girl in Nazi Germany. Her parents have been taken away and she grows up with foster parents. Liesel, the little girl, steals books, makes incredible friendship, but the most important part, Death tells the story. An account of little girls growing up, Nazis, Jews, theft, death but most of all, a lot of hope. A warm story, real people dealing with devastating events. We were all deeply touched by it.

One point our members brought up that I didn't see as being German myself, the author managed to draw a picture of the ordinary German people, the non-Nazis. It was good to see another side of the war. People in Germany suffered the same as the people in other countries. They liked the description of that side of the Germans. This novel brought up "cultural memories", it's a secondary story, a story about the losers of the war.

I liked Death as the narrator, I think the author gave death a human face. Now we can compare humans and death, see a picture that is more innocent.

Zusak captures the personalities of all the characters very well, good or bad, he makes them very believable.

All in all, a very interesting book, easy to read (it is officially a young adult novel), yet very deep.

We discussed this in our international book club in January 2011.

From the back cover:
"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."

See more comments on my ThrowbackThursday post in 2022.


  1. I really like your review as well! Actually the author turned quite a few stereotypes around, maybe the most with Death. He comes across as a hardworking but compassionate being.

    1. Very true. And after all, it's not death's fault if we human beings can't live in peace.

      As I mentioned on your review, I think books like this are important so that we can learn from them. So that history does not repeat itself. And we have to learn from this kind of books because in films, even today, you only ever get shown black and white.
      And as one of your friends, there are new nationalists on the rise everywhere, especially in your own country. We need to stop them. We need to make people aware. And teenagers are a lot smarter than we think, they get their information everywhere. Books like this might help.

      I always enjoy your book recommendations and have found a lot of great books on your page but I enjoy reading your reviews about books I read even more because it's almost as if we're talking to each other, discussing the book, sharing our thoughts. Always such a great pleasure. Thank you.

    2. And - I almost forgot, there will be a new book by Markus Zusak: Bridge of Clay but I have already missed another one (how could I miss that!?!): I am the Messenger.

  2. Yeah i liked learning in this novel about the non-Nazi viewpoint in Germany. Liesel was a good character. You seem to have lived many places ... how many languages do you speak? and what is your native language?

    1. Oh, believe me, there were many who supported hitler but there were also many who didn't, like in most societies.

      I have lived in Belgium, the UK and the Netherlands besides from my native country Germany. And that's also my mother tongue, German.

      I speak English and French which I learned at school and I do pretty well with those two languages (even if I say so myself, LOL), then I learned Esperanto which is a very easy language to learn and through travelling to international meetings, I got quite fluent there, as well. I had Spanish in school for a year, tried to carry it on but I just have a basic knowlege, can make myself understood. The same goes for Swedish which I started learning when my son went to study there. And then there is Dutch, of course. We lived there for a long time and I am pretty fluent there, as well, though not as grammatically correct as with my other fluent languages.

      So that makes seven in which I can make myself understood.