The Book Thief is One of the Best Books Ever Written: A Review(?) on The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.
Book Nerds, I have a major confession to make. I’ve never read The Book Thief.
It’s one of those books that had its moment in the 2010’s thanks to a major movie deal that did pretty well at the box office and captured audiences’ minds and hearts. I vividly remember people going gaga over this book, and for good reason, it’s a good book. But I never read it back then. I was aware that it was beautiful, haunting, and moving, but I was much more interested in reading some not so great books.
As time went on, The Book Thief kinda got forgotten about. But as I got older, I began to notice a decent amount of people bringing it back up. I’m not joking, when I went to college, and people learned I was an English major, one of the ice-breaker questions I got was: “Have you read The Book Thief?” I’m not sure why that was a question, but it was. Cue my flashbacks to when the book was at its height years prior. So I began lying and saying that I had read the book because I was embarrassed to say I’d never read it. Looking back I have no choice but to laugh at myself because this was something so stupid to lie about. There was no reason for me to do so, but at 18 I was a child walking around pretending to be a functioning adult so we can simply chalk this up to me being an idiot.
Anyway, I finally picked up a copy late last year and read it. I can stop lying now and truthfully say I’ve read The Book Thief now. What you are about to read is not exactly a review. I feel that this book doesn’t need any more reviews; I think society has deemed this a book everyone should read at least once in their life. I’m not going to sit here and say this is a good book so you should read it. This post is more going to be my general thoughts and a small discussion on the major themes of the text. So kinda a review, but not one of my traditional ones.
Should I give a quick synopsis? I guess I should. The Book Thief follows Liesel Meminger, a pre-pubescent girl who is growing up during World War II. This is Liesel’s coming-of-age story where she learns basic math, reading, and writing as well as moral ethics, friendship, prejudice, and the kindness and cruelty humans are capable of. Children living through war sadly grow up way faster than they should have to, and Liesel, despite being a fictional character, is no different. Oh, and as the book title implies, she steals books because words have power.
That’s pretty much the SparkNotes version of The Book Thief. I can now say with certainty that this is definitely a novel that everyone should read once during the course of his, her, or their life. The subject matter is so heavy, but it’s not overwhelming. It’s also a lot to process as a child, teen, or adult, but Markus Zusak does such a great job with his writing that it never feels like he’s holding your hand and walking you through these topics and themes.
I don’t know when or why the general public began shitting on YA Lit because “it’s for kids” or where that originated from exactly, but that’s never been the case with YA Lit. The Book Thief is a 10-out-of-10 example of teaching people of any age about difficult topics. I truly think everyone, no matter what age, can learn something from this book.
Now, I’m not going to harp on and on about what this book can teach us. There are countless think pieces on that topic out there on the wild expanse of the internet. I pretty much just want to continue with what I enjoyed in this book.
First on that list is the narrator. Death as the narrator is a stroke of genius. Death is an omnipresent narrator who simultaneously cares too much and not at all. Somehow that was a point that no one ever brought up to me before, so my mind was blown when I realized who the narrator was. Honestly, there isn’t a better choice for the position. It just works so well.
Secondly, I need to bring up how heartbreaking Liesel’s story truly is. Her entire life is marked in loss. In another story one could say that she’s cursed and anyone she ever loves will die. But seriously, everyone this girl knows and loves dies or leaves her in some way. Before she’s even a pre-teen, her mom leaves her with a foster service, her brother dies, and her foster mother ends up not being the kindest woman. She has no one at the start of the novel. And then as she grows she finds this support system in her foster father, a best friend in Rudy, and she even realizes that her foster mother cares about Liesel in her own way. But we’re in Germany in the early 1940’s; World War II is in full swing. The people she loves are sent away to war, harmed in various ways, fear for their lives, and some just disappear one day. Liesel outlives everyone she cares for time and time again, and yet she consistently overcomes.
Imagine you’re a pre-teen again. First of all, ew. I don’t want to be that age again, that’s a disgusting time for everyone, but I digress. But you’re a pre-teen; specifically Liesel. You’ve already lived through so much death and loss. Your younger sibling has died, and the woman who has raised you leaves you with total strangers. You’re confused. I’d argue that you’d not want to get close to anyone in fear that they might leave you.
But Liesel does let others into her heart. She has no care what age, gender, or religion people are; if she cares for someone, she cares for them greatly. And she knows that everyone she loves may tragically be taken from her one day soon. I think that’s the saddest part of this book. She knows death is coming, that loss is inevitable, but her heart is full and bursting with love for others.
I think that’s the main take away from this book. That no matter how much loss, no matter how much sadness and heartache one endures, there is still room for love. And love knows no bounds. Yes, this story is heartbreaking, but it’s one that everyone can thoroughly understand.
Yes, there is so much more to The Book Thief that I haven’t even touched on. There are so many layers to this book. I could do countless pieces on The Book Thief alone, but I think I’m going to stop at this point. This is one of the few books that no one needs defend how good it is.
With that, I bid you all adieu. I shall see you next week with another new review.
So until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.