Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak Review (Spoilers)

*This is a review which will be filled with spoilers for The Book Thief.  Please don’t continue if you have yet to read this wonderful novel!*

So, after endless recommendations and the release of a movie, I finally read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak in Janurary.  Well, mostly December I think it was.  The amount of hype surrounding this book is unbelievable, but, I think, well deserved.  Even with my super high expectations, I was not disappointed.

I’ll my one negative point out of the way first.  I’ve never been one to enjoy novels centred around war (perhaps a reason why I tended to dislike school assigned books - there was always at least one war novel).  I’d been assured that The Book Thief was not about war, but I believe it permeated every aspect of the novel and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t bother me at all.  I was apprehensive every time I opened the pages.  Of course, this is not the fault of the book, just a matter of personal preference.  I hate being reminded of the terrible cruelty humanity is capable of inflicting on itself, and whilst in dystopian or fantasy novels I can pretend that violent scenarios would never occur in the real world, historical fiction reminds me that it can, and has.  This is also a reason why I hate watching the news.  Anyway, I’m getting off topic.

What I’m trying to say is that I couldn’t enjoy this novel as much as everyone else purely because of my own taste, however ignorant and, well, shameful, it may be.

Despite this, there were so many aspects of this book that I adored.  The writing was superb and the characters rich.  I loved the unique choice of narrator - Death was intriguing.  (S)he would pop up sporadically, talking directly to the reader, as if to say “Remember me?  I’m coming for you all!”  Well, I perhaps naively believed that Death was only coming for Rudy for the majority of the story, but I’ll get to that later.  It was interesting to me that Death was not made out to be a bad character.  In fact, Death was pretty nice!  Just a helper for those who have passed.  It was a comforting thought, that poor lemon-haired Rudy was carried gently out of his world by a being who cared.

Of course I enjoyed the character of Liesel too.  She was a very cool girl - she reminded me of my grandma, especially how she describes what she was like as a kid, which only made me feel more connected to Liesel.  She was also exceptionally brave - how bad*** was that scene where she purposefully got hurt so she could escape the game and warn the Hubermanns about the basement inspection?!  Naturally, I could relate to her love of books too.  Reading about her book thievery and her times in the mayor’s wife’s library made me feel all warm inside, and I almost wished I could be there too.

I also had a great time reading about Liesel and Rudy’s time with their gang of thieves and their exploits.  It was so much fun, even if it was illegal!  I have to admit pretty much anything Liesel and Rudy did together was fun though.  I adored the scene where they fed bread to the poor Jews passing through their town.  It just goes to show how compassionate children can be, despite the consequences.

Perhaps my favourite part of the novel was Liesel and Max’s relationship.  The stories Max made for Liesel were delightful, and I liked seeing how Liesel and her attitude had affected Max through his stories.

Another point I wanted to make was that, as much as I love Hans, I definitely appreciated Rosa.  For all the reviews I’ve read of The Book Thief, I had never come across her name!  I knew of Hans, because everyone seemed to be crazy about him, but nothing of Rosa!  She reminded me a lot of Professor McGonagal - stern and even harsh, but you know that she truly has her loved ones’ best interests at heart.  I think the best scene to describe this is the time that Rosa did exactly as Liesel asked and pulled her out of class to let her know that Max had woken after his illness.  Sure, she could be mean, but she really did care about her little saumensch, Liesel.  I should also mention that I wasn't too concerned about her physical punishment of Liesel - considering the time period the novel is set in I don't think it was unusual.  I believe had the book been set in the current time it would have bothered me a lot more.

Now I suppose I should get to my thoughts about the ending.  Sigh.  It broke me.  Just imagine this:  It’s very late at night (well, technically early morning) and I’m sharing a room with my younger sister due to being on holiday.  I read about how Death lovingly takes Hans and Rosa from their bed (Hans’ soul sitting up to meet Death).  I read about how gently Death takes the poor Rudy Steiner.  I’m reading about HOW THE ENTIRE FREAKING STREET IS NOW DEAD except Liesel and how she has to see all the bodies.  And how she finally (too late) gives Rudy a kiss.  All the while I am trying to keep the noise of my ugly crying down so as not to wake my sister.  I was not happy.  In fact, I was fairly angry!  How dare they die - I cared about them!  I did feel satisfied, however, by the fact that Liesel got to live with the mayor and his wife and that she got to see Max again.  (Oh, how glad I was that Max survived.)

My final thought after finishing this book:  I can’t wait to inflict the pain of this story on my family when I force them to watch the movie with me!

As usual, be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments!


  1. What a delightful review Sabrina! I understand what you are saying about not liking historical fiction books about wars because, yes, those things happened and humanity is horrible sometimes but one of the things Zusak does and which I really appreciated was that even though is set on World War II is not entirely focused on the war. True, we need historical background but the main point was Liesel story and the many people around her ^^
    I agree about Rosa; everybody speaks about Hans because he's one of the loveliest grown up characters I've ever read about. He's not afraid to do what he thinks is right and yes, Rosa is the same way though she doesn't show it so easily. Both loved Liesel so much and I was completely devastated when they died. As well as Rudy; my poor little kid </33333 But funny enough, their deaths were not gruesome, which is again another thing I loved about the novel; how death is portrayed. I connected with her/him instantly and that's weird to be honest because who isn't afraid of Death? And don't get me started on Max... I would never stop typing hahaha
    So, yeah, Zusak crafted a beautiful novel; and I cannot wait to know what you think of the movie. They changed some parts but I thought it was a very nice adaptation. And the actors? THEY WERE SO GOOD :)

    1. Thanks Noelia :)
      It was good how the main focus wasn't the war.
      Yes, Hans is great at standing up for his beliefs. *Sobs* The deaths were so awful, but as you said, not gruesome! It good as it could be.
      I have now watched the movie! I thought it was pretty good for an adaptation, but I was sad because a lot of my favourite bits were left out. And I agree, the acting was stellar!

  2. I'm so happy you liked this book! I can understand your feelings on the whole war thing (although I'm more or less the opposite, I think that authors should be applauded for reminding us of the harsher sides of life but anyway that's an argument for another day!) and I'm glad it didn't get in your way of enjoying this book too much.

    I also loved the character of Rosa. All of the characters in The Book Thief are great but she was one of the ones that always stood out to me.

    And then, as you said, there was the ending. I've read this book twice and I came pretty close to tears both times. The climax is so beautiful and damning and terrifying and hurtful and uplifting and even thinking about it now makes me feel emotional.

    There will never be another book quite like this in my mind and I'm thrilled that you enjoyed it!


    1. Oh, don't get me wrong, it is good that authors include reminders of the harsher sides of life, as you put it, it's just not for me.
      I'm glad you loved Rosa too! That's true, all the characters are good.
      It is! How amazing that a book can have such an impact.
      You're right - I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed it too!


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