The Book Thief, By Markus Zusak

What’s This Book All About?

Have you ever been haunted by a book that its characters are forever etched into your memories? Have you felt the magic of a story, created just through the power of  simple words by an amazing author? Have you loved characters that their life and experiences seemed more real to you than reality? Have you ever read a story narrated by death? In my case, the answer to all these questions are a yes and for me that book was The Book Thief, a book of such immense beauty that I absolutely loved every bit of it. It is a classic that must be read by every person who wishes to discover the power of simple yet effective writing.

The Bigger Picture

Narrated by death, The Book Thief is the story of a nine-year old girl, Liesel Meminger. She is sent to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann, who are to be her foster parents in Nazi Germany. Death first encounters Liesel when her brother dies and stays back long enough to watch her steal her first book The Grave Digger’s Handbook from the cemetery after it falls from the coat of a young grave-digger. Despite not knowing how to read or write, she is fascinated by the book. In addition, though she is reluctant to stay with her foster parents, Hans Hubermann gradually wins her over with his paternal affection and love. As Hans begins to teach Liesel to read and write on one hand, on the other hand she begins to make new friends including a boy named Rudy Steiner. Rudy and Liesel then go on a series of adventures, most of which are centered around stealing especially books from the house of the Mayor.

As the story progresses, one night a Jew named Max Vandenburg enters their home. He is the son of a friend of Hans from the first world war, a man who had taught him to play the accordion and who had indirectly even saved his life. Hans had also promised his widowed wife to help her in case she ever needed it. Though Hans is a German, he does not hate Jews, although he is aware of the immense risk that he is taking by allowing Max to live in their basement. Slowly but gradually, an amazing friendship grows between Max and Liesel, which is so beautifully depicted especially when he writes a story for her called The Standover Man, which he presents to her as a gift.

A book in my opinion always has two important aspects, one the story and two the nature of writing. Yes I agree that they are not different but that they heavily impact each other. If a story is nice but written in a shoddy manner, then it loses its entire beauty. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is an example of ingenious writing that proves that the author has immense talent and caliber. His writing is poetic, haunting, lyrical and unforgettable to say the least. Death is such a memorable character who is depicted in a manner that is both poignant and heart touching, that it is difficult not to feel sympathy for him. (Weird, right?) So not just Death, but Liesel, Hans, Rosa, Rudy, Max feel like characters that you have met and interacted with on a personal level. This book is therefore a proof of the exemplary writing talent of the author. It is definitely one of those rare stories that comes along once in a lifetime.

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Though The Book Thief is based on the underlying theme of the Holocaust, many things save the book from becoming sad and depressingA lively humor coupled with richness of characters ensure that the readers are hooked right from the first page. Also, another interesting aspect of the book that I really liked was the fact that this book was so balanced, where ordinary Germans were in the same danger of losing their lives as the Jews themselves.

I have always admired authors who are able to conjure a whole new world just with the power of their words. And books like The Book Thief are proof that good writing is still very much alive and it is only writers like Zusak who can use words to paint vivid and visual landscapes that I have never encountered before. In short, the novel reminds me of an elaborate yet seamlessly integrated play where every scene is complete and unique in its own way. In conclusion, I cannot recommend a better book to read, receive, or gift than The Book Thief. It has the same magic and simplicity that I encountered only once before and that was while reading the Harry Potter series.

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Final Verdict

A definite buy as some stories are meant to stay with you forever. They are meant to be read again and again, till they become a part of your life and soul.

This is certainly one of the best books that I have read so far. It is so beautifully written with descriptions of the skies, people and places that you will not find anywhere else. The immense bravery of Liesel , the amazing dedication of Hans to his family the longing of Rudy for one kiss and Death’s turmoil at the decisions that he compelled to take….all these characters have left an indelible mark on my mind. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and if I had to steal one book in the world, it would be this one. Though the book is more than 550 pages long, I guarantee you that this is time well spent. And I doubt, you will ever find a book that has Death as its narrator inspiring bravery, truth, life, hope and love in such a beautiful way.

5 thoughts on “The Book Thief, By Markus Zusak

  1. I saw the film 1st, and I cried… I read the book but I didn’t cry. This book is like A Thousand Splendid Suns you just simply forget to cry. Astonishingly Brilliant.

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