Today I’m going to review Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief for you.
You’ll notice a different structure on this and some of my upcoming reviews as I’m practicing for an exam that includes writing reviews and I’ll just stick to the structure that is expected at university. If you like it better than my usual review structure, you can tell me that. If you like the other structure better, you can also tell me. I’m planning on switching back after the exam, but if you are all in favor of this new structure, I can also stick to it.
The Book Thief is about nine-year-old Liesel Meminger who is sent to live with the Hubermanns, a foster family living in a fictional town called Molching. She soon warms up to her foster-father Hans and her new best friend Rudy. Her foster-mother Rosa takes some getting used to. Liesel settles in, learns to read and takes up stealing books. One day, a young man enters the Hubermanns’ kitchen. His name is Max and he is a Jew hiding from the Nazis.
Zusak’s visual description of the setting and his vivid writing style make you believe you were a character in his novel. Walking the town of Molching with its little stores and shabby houses feels very real. Just like Liesel holding a burning book to her chest. Markus Zusak knows how to show the reader what he imagines.
The Book Thief features mainly well-crafted characters. Liesel is depicted realistically, as she turns from the shy and hesitant young girl to a brave rascal with a big heart. Like every child, she doesn’t always think about the consequences of her actions. I enjoyed the well-rounded characterization of Liesel’s loving foster-father Hans and I wish Rosa would have gotten similar treatment. As Rosa is a very reserved person, it could also be that Markus Zusak didn’t want us to know too much about Rosa. She should be as much a mystery to us as she is to Liesel. The Book Thief is narrated by Death and Markus Zusak couldn’t have chosen a better narrator. Death has a good sense of humor and keeps you glued to the pages.
So what is the overall reading experience? While The Book Thief instantly sucks you in, it slows down in the middle mainly because day-to-day events are recounted and nothing happens that stays in your mind. I couldn’t find a real climax throughout the book. Not even the scene near the end has that much impact. The ending itself, however, is satisfying. What I particularly liked was that the book features many Bavarian words and expressions which worked very well and added to the sarcastic tone the narrator created. As a person living near Bavaria, I can tell you that Markus Zusak did his research. What did not work were the printed illustrated pages of a book within this edition of the novel. They were very hard to read and quickly became annoying. The Book Thief is a solid novel that is suitable for very young readers as it leaves out many of the horrors of the time. For adults and young adults who know that millions of people died a cruel death during the Nazi regime, the book might turn out be a bit too soft.