[Review] The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

Title of Book: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Publisher: Definitions
Publication Year: 2008
Language: English
Format: Paperback
Pages: 584

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Death has never been busier, and it will become busier still. Liesel Meminger's life is changed when, by her brother's graveside, she picks up an object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left 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 foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, and wherever there are books to be found. But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down.
Narrated by Death, The Book Thief is a story about the power of words and the ability of books to feed the soul. Award -winning author MARKUS ZUSAK has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

The Book Thief is a historical fiction set in Germany during World War II. This book tells a story of a young girl named Liesel Meminger from the perspective of death. Death’s first encounter with Liesel was when her brother died in a train on their way to Molching. Liesel and her brother were supposed to live with their new foster parents there. After that, death takes special interest in Liesel’s life and follows her journey growing up during one of the worst times of human history.
The Book Thief is different from other books that I’ve read, mainly because it is narrated by death. Death gives unique perspective to Liesel’s life and the horrible events surrounding her. Death as a narrator often gives comment on humanity from an outsider look which I find interesting. Since the story is being narrated by death, we’re not only given a glimpse of Liesel’s life, but also of the characters connected to her.
Liesel is a lovely character. It’s easy to sympathize with her. She had lost her brother and her mother. But she found new hope in her foster family. Although her foster parents seem rough at first, as the story goes, we’ll find out that there’s kindness in them; giving a good example to not judge people by their appearances. Being underprivileged doesn’t stop them to help people in need, especially in this book’s particular time setting when helping people could cost your own life and family.
At some point in this book, Liesel’s family would try to hide a Jewish man from the Nazis. The Jewish man, Max, and Liesel form an unlikely friendship through their interaction in the basement. Liesel would sometimes describe the weather to Max because he wasn’t able to go outside. Max would give Liesel stories as gifts that he wrote in papers from Hitler’s book. Their friendship is my favorite part of the book, and also Liesel’s friendship with Rudy. These characters really hooked me. By the end of this book, I was so invested in these characters that I cried when things don’t go well for them.
Zusak’s phrasing is beautiful and poetic, but sometimes I find they don’t make sense. But then I came back to the fact that the story is narrated by Death. Probably this was intentional, to simulate words spoken by a mythical creature (kind of) or maybe it’s just me. As a narrator, Death intrigues me. He is fascinated by colors, which actually to him works as a distraction from his job. In fact, his interest in Liesel also started out as a distraction considering WW II is the time when he’s busy the most.
Although I absolutely adore this book, I don’t give it a full rating. I had a problem with the pacing of this book. At times, it could be intriguing that I couldn’t put it down. Other times, it was so slow that I had to take a break and stop reading this book. I’m not good with slow pace books. It exhausted me. It could be just me though because I don’t think I know anyone else with the same problem. So I do hope this won’t stop you to try reading this book. The Book Thief is one of those books that I believe everyone should read at least once. It tugs at your heartstrings and it will stay with you. I really recommend this book.

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