Monday, December 08, 2014

Books: The Book Thief

The Book Thief
By Markus Zusak
Copyright 2005
550 pages

The Book Thief is the story of a young girl in Germany during World War II. It was my book club's read for November. I did not finish the book and instead watched the movie.

The movie in no way does the book justice. Infrequently, movies surpass a book, but that is not the case this time. If you saw the movie and have not read the book, treat yourself to the book.

This novel is listed as young adult, and I am not sure why. I certainly would not give it that classification. I suppose it is because it is about a young girl and not an adult that places it in that category. I would put this in general fiction. Or literature.

Liesel at the age of 9 becomes the foster child of a German couple. Her mother leaves her there, for unexplained reasons, though there are hints that the girl's real mother is a communist and thus on the run. Along the way, Liesel's brother dies, and at his graveside she steals a book about grave digging. That is her first theft of books.

The story uses the theft of books as a thematic device, but this is really a novel about language and the power of words. Words have strength and beauty, but they are also hateful and ugly. The words we choose to use as human beings says a lot about who we are as people. The words we use as a society, the words we condemn or uplift, also says much about us as a whole. Hitler, the book points out, was a master wordsmith, and many people fell at his feet to follow his plan of world domination, among other things.

This book saddened me because I could not help but make comparisons - how do we differ today from 1942? Today we don't have leaflets, we have fake news outlets that call themselves media, and journalists who are anything but journalists, but who are instead entertainers playing journalists on shows like Fox & Friends.  It is all a numbers game and humanity is lost in the shuffle.

Humanity lost itself in World War II, as well. The book points this out subtly, but that theme is in the story line as well. Where does our humanity go, I wonder? How is it that we lose it so easily?

This story is told by Death. Death personified as a watcher and a soul-uplifter, though not in the ways of an angel. But in the ways of someone who catches the spirit as it slips from one world to the next. Death as a reporter, really - a journalist in the truest sense.

The writing in this story is beautiful, poetic, and lovely. Even when the words sting and one feels the whip of a German soldier, there is such craft and worthiness here that it is difficult not to see what is happening. These words are visual, and I applaud the author for his writing grace.

5 Stars


  1. The books sounds very interesting. Thank you for the great review. It seems like it would be so sad, though. Will I live through the grief to really see the well crafted, wonderfully written story?

  2. I was actually quite surprised by how much liked this book. The movie did not do it justice.

  3. Wonderful review, Anita. I loved this book, and I cried at the end, even though we knew what was coming. Have not seen the movie, but do wonder how it compares.


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