The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a touching depiction of Nazi Germany. The central character is a girl called Liesel Meminger, and the narrator of the book is death himself! But that said, it is not a morbid book.
It describes the trying times that both Germans and Jews had to undergo during World War II when Hitler’s power was at its zenith. The book begins with the death of Liesel’s little brother, while her father has been arrested for being a Communist. She is inexplicably drawn to books though she does not know to read and steals her first book ‘The Gravedigger’s Handbook’ on the day her brother is buried.
Her mother arranges for her to be sent to a German foster couple, Hans (a painter) and Rosa Hubermann (a washerwoman), who though seemingly ‘rough’, show her more love than she expects. Her foster father teaches her to read in secret, leading to a lifelong passion for reading. Their life takes an unexpected turn when a Jewish boxer, Max Vandenberg, the son of the man who saved Hans’s life during World War I, comes to live with them. Both Liesel and Max suffer from nightmares and love to read, resulting in an unlikely kinship. Max even paints over the pages of his copy of ‘Mein Kampf’ to illustrate a lovely book for Liesel!
But a German couple hiding a Jew in their basement during those dangerous times is an unusual aspect and handled beautifully in the book. It is a story of the Holocaust told through the German perspective. Though they encounter great poverty, violence and sadness, the interactions between Liesel and her foster family (especially Hans), Max and her best friend Rudy, display the triumph of the human spirit over the circumstances.
Liesel grows from a diffident reader to a confident one over the course. Her reading ability offers solace to a wide range of people, her father, Max, the crowd of people gathered in the basement during a bombing and even her crusty neighbour! Finally, despite seeing her world crumbling around her, Liesel’s natural tenacity, innate goodness and resilience help her to grow into a woman who stands out as a beacon of hope for human beings in distress.
The writing style is very different from that seen in other books for young readers. In the author’s native country of Australia, ‘The Book Thief’ is a book for adults. Though the book is very long, it is worth the effort to get a deeper insight into Nazi Germany and its civilians, who fought a different war daily. The tone of the book is not mournful, and though both violence and swear words are present, they do not overwhelm the reader. They, in fact, form a part of the landscape of the period the book describes.
The language used seems simple, but it conveys a deeper meaning. For example, the power of words is depicted in Max’s dream, where he jousts with Hitler. Though Hitler loses the bout, he rouses all the people in the stadium with his resounding words, leading to Max being pummeled by the entire lot of them, ultimately losing the fight he had initially won!
As the war rages over the course of the book, the Grim Reaper cuts a wide swath across Germany. Thus what happens in Liesel’s little corner of the world represents the upheaval seen by the nation at large.
So what happens to Max? Does Liesel survive the war along with her family? Pick up a copy of the book and immerse yourself in this fine piece of writing to know!
Age: 13+(Sensitive themes and strong language. Reader discretion is advised)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a touching depiction of Nazi Germany. The central character is a girl called Liesel Meminger, and the narrator of the book is Death himself! It describes the trying times that both Germans and Jews had to undergo during World War II when Hitler’s power was at its zenith. Does Liesel survive the war along with her family? What problems will she face? Immerse yourself in this fine piece of writing to know!
- The use of death as a narrator
- Lack of a gloomy aspect to the book
- An in-depth insight into harrowing times
- All the characters are well-rounded and depicted beautifully
- Too long, may try the patience of many!
- Slow-moving storyline
Power Words :