Review Take Two: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Before we jump into April's review of The Book Thief, I'd like to explain what a 'Review Take Two' is. Occasionally, from here out April and I will review the same book, as is the case with Markus Zusak's beautiful novel. Afterwards, both will post a review with their independent thoughts. It's easy to distinguish in case one doesn't wish to read two reviews of the same novel so close together. This first one is more spaced out (or maybe they will end up usually spaced out. Who knows. I plan a lot of things.... and then life.) as my review was posted at the end of December last year. Here is April's:

Author: Markus Zusak
Genre: young-adult fiction, historical fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 550 (paperback edition)
Published: 2006
Source: bought
Rating: 5/5

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.

By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left behind 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 accordian-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 Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
The Book Thief came highly recommended and I was excited to read it. It’s about several years in the life of a young girl during WWII, as narrated by Death. Really, though, it’s about so much more than that.

The young book thief, Liesel, is adopted by a foster family and taken away from her mother who, seemingly sick, cannot take care of her and her brother. En route to their new home, her brother dies suddenly. Her mother has to leave her with her new family, so now she is alone and knows nobody, drowning in sorrow. But it is as she is at her brother’s funeral that she steals her first book, opening new paths that would eventually touch all of those around her.

Like many people, Liesel’s ability to rebound from the horrors in the world is remarkable. Death finds himself fascinated by her strength and passion, especially when it comes to those she loves. Zusak paints a picture of a girl who fits the expression “whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” Her growth as a character ultimately leads you, as a reader, to find hope in the hidden corners of a basement or a deliberately left-open window into a library. Her heart is open and she finds room in it for new parents, new friends, and a hidden Jew, who all help in showing her that as long as there is love, there is life.

Believe me, though, there is tragedy aplenty in this novel. Much of it is nicely foreshadowed, or even outright warned, by Death. But from page one, you can almost taste it. A work of fiction it may be, but it’s still a work of fiction about Nazi Germany. Many of the true horrors are merely hinted at; regardless, the knowledge that these things really happened (within the last hundred years!) should still tear at you. (Unless you’re completely heartless, of course. I mean, someone several someones in history had to be, to allow this unfortunate spot in human history to occur.)

Liesel’s story is a touching and bittersweet one, with a sort of existential truth at the heart: life truly is what you make of it. It is about the love and sorrow of a young girl, the greater humanity those things represent, and ultimately the power of words to heal. Highly recommended.  


My review is hardly contrasting as I rated the book the same 5/5 stars and had equal love for all things The Book Thief. If interested my review can be found here.


  1. I've seen this book about 100 times and never thought to pick it up. Now I think I will. :)

    1. Yes, do it! This is one of the few books I do not worry about recommending to others. It is simply amazing! I think you'll enjoy it.


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