“The Book Thief” Markus Zusak

When I started to read this book, I was excited. I still am. This book has not let me down yet, and I doubt it will. The Book Thief is a tale of a young foster child in the Holocaust. Now, one would think that the girl, Liesel, would be the narrator. In fact, that assumption is dead wrong. The book is told from the perspective of the “Grim Reaper”. Many readers might object to this perspective due to the fact that it is unconventional and sort of a fantasy narrator. I actually quite enjoy the perspective because it adds a bit of humor, and provides historical information that Liesel would not have known; due to the fact that she has not been fully educated and is young when the book begins. The Grim Reaper tells the story as he saw it unfold, captivated by Liesel, who he “lovingly” calls the “Book Thief”. Hence the title of the book. 

The one thing that was confusing about The Book Thief was the introduction. The reader has not been introduced to who the narrator is, and I found myself very confused. The Grim Reaper starts out talking about colors and Liesel, which left me feeling lost about the story. I pushed on though, hoping it would get better, which it did. I guess one would say that this introduction is like someone is having a conversation with you. That format works with some, but not for me; at least when I first began this book. As I read on, it became easier to read and I found myself enjoying this style of writing. I have never encountered a Holocaust book written this way, and I have read quite a lot due to the fact that I enjoy that genre immensely. The Book Thief is also different from normal Holocaust books in another way. This book touches upon the view of a child in the Holocaust, but what is different is that the child is not Jewish. In this genre of books, the view is most likely Jewish, The Book Thief though, is told from a girl who is in Hitler Youth.

What I love most about this book is that it captivates the reader. I am always excited to turn the page and find out what happens next. This novel is definitely a “page-turner”. It is soon turning into one of my favorite books I have read this year. I can not wait to read more about Liesel’s journey in Nazi Germany. 

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11 Comments

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11 responses to ““The Book Thief” Markus Zusak

  1. Shannon Kehoe

    I agree that the introduction was quite confusing. I found myself marking the book with guesses as to who or what could be narrating the novel. When I had realized the personification of death was the narrator, so much more made sense. I think this was a smart choice for the narrator. I also think it is a metaphor for how Liesel is constantly surrounded by death, especially in Nazi Germany. She sees several dead bodies nearly everyday, and the Grimm Reaper becomes rather familiar with her, but never familiar enough to claim her, so far. She takes good things from the terrible surroundings and finds serenity in the books. This is what captivates the Grimm Reaper. He is doing his “job” around Liesel at all times, while she manages to keep her head up and stay positive, though she may not be fully aware of the severity of such happenings.

    At one point the narrator describes Liesel’s foster father’s living through two wars as “escaping me”, the narrator being the Grimm Reaper. I thought this was a clever way of describing how Hans had cheated death. This novel truly does seem to be told in the format of a casual conversation, or as if the Grimm Reaper is simply sharing a story. Many novels come off as professional and stuck up. This is why I think so many teenagers love this book. Zusak could have easily written “The Book Thief” with challenging vocabulary, foreign concepts, and overreaching themes. I am thankful that he did not. This book did take a while to pick up and garner my interest, but now that it’s caught my attention, i think “The Book Thief” is well on it’s way to the top of my favorite books list.

  2. So far, I am thoroughly enjoying The Book Thief by Markus Zusak because of its intriguing character development and the action-packed setting in which it takes place. I believe that the characters in this novel are very believable, for the novel focuses on a young girl named Liesel and the struggles that she endures with understanding political corruption in her country, her family, and her lack of education. These are certainly realistic problems for a foster child in Germany during World War Two to face. Although Liesel’s struggle to understand the Holocaust is difficult to relate to, it makes the story more interesting. In addition, the author is sure to include moments where Liesel battles with more relatable issues, such as austere family members and an unfair educational system.
    The setting of the Book Thief has a large impact on the plot, while it also affects the beliefs and maturation of the characters. Because the novel takes place in Germany during the Holocaust, Liesel must learn to adapt to a harsh and unforgiving environment at a rather young age. Her exposure to oppression not only makes her a stronger individual, but it also causes her to begin developing new beliefs about the world around her. The loving relationships that Liesel maintains with her foster father and her friend, Rudy, keep her sane in the midst of the brutality that surrounds her. In portraying Liesel’s relationships with others as her prime source of joy, the author conveys a message that reliable bonds can help one through the most miserable times in his/her life.

  3. So far, I am thoroughly enjoying The Book Thief by Markus Zusak because of its intriguing character development and the action-packed setting in which it takes place. I believe that the characters in this novel are very believable, for the novel focuses on a young girl named Liesel and the struggles that she endures with understanding political corruption in her country, her family, and her lack of education. These are certainly realistic problems for a foster child in Germany during World War Two to face. Although Liesel’s struggle to understand the Holocaust is difficult to relate to, it makes the story more interesting. In addition, the author is sure to include moments where Liesel battles with more relatable issues, such as austere family members and an unfair educational system.

    The setting of the Book Thief has a large impact on the plot, while it also affects the beliefs and maturation of the characters. Because the novel takes place in Germany during the Holocaust, Liesel must learn to adapt to a harsh and unforgiving environment at a rather young age. Her exposure to oppression not only makes her a stronger individual, but it also causes her to begin developing new beliefs about the world around her. The loving relationships that Liesel maintains with her foster father and her friend, Rudy, keep her sane in the midst of the brutality that surrounds her. In portraying Liesel’s relationships with others as her prime source of joy, the author conveys a message that reliable bonds can help one through the most miserable times in his/her life.

  4. katyhowells

    The second section of The Book Thief is just as good as the first. As the story goes on, I believe that the events that occur help shape Liesel’s identity. She becomes more of an independent young lady as each day passes. I believe events such as the arrival of Max and stealing those books help shape how Liesel acts. Max’s arrival was the changing point of child to woman for Liesel. She realized how little she was affected by the war compared to others, and therefore became more compassionate. By stealing the books, I believe that she found herself an identity. As the Grimm Reaper states, Liesel likes and attaches herself to he nickname of the “book thief”. This is a great example of character identity as it shows that Liesel may be a little lost in who she is due to the tragic event of losing her family.
    The only critique of this section is that the Grimm Reaper gives away something huge. I was saddened to find out that Rudy will die. This is a wierd angle for the author to take, most authors hide big deaths with hints of foreshadowing. Zusak gave it away before it even happened, I have not decided yet whether I will eventually enjoy this style of writing. I am intrigued to see how this big giveaway occurs in the next section of the Book Thief.

  5. As The Book Thief progresses, I continue to be enthralled by Zusak’s character development, setting choices, and symbolism. Leisel, the main character, has a best friend named Rudy, and she embarks upon many adventures with him throughout the novel. Rudy is a wonderful character, for he is a symbol of light and joy in times of struggle and desolateness. While Leisel is disheartened by the Nazis’ oppressive behaviors and burning of precious books, she enjoys laughter-filled moments and roughhousing in the streets with Rudy. I believe that in including Rudy in the story, Zusak makes the statement that friends often play vital roles in bringing jubilation into one’s life. The great trust that is maintained between Rudy and Leisel allows their relationship to be so strong.
    One activity that Rudy and Leisel take pleasure in is stealing food from various sources around their small town. Due to their malnourishment, they rejoice when they encounter a plentiful stock of anything edible. It seems to me that their stealing of the food symbolizes adolescent rebellion. One of the major themes of The Book Thief is maturation, and by weaving stealing into the plot, Zusak is making the statement that defiance is a major part of this process. I am excited to see how Leisel and Rudy continue to grow, and how the power of books will ultimately have a large impact on the outcome of the novel.

  6. Shannon Kehoe

    The maturation of Leisel in this section is quite prevalent. As Katy stated, she begins to enjoy and attach herself to her newfound title of “The Book Theif”. She also begins to become her own person. Taking actions that one with little direction or opinion would rarely partake in, such as gathering food, taking books, and so on. This to me, means she is growing more independent, for she knows it is necessary.

    I agree that Rudy is a large part of Leisel’s life in shaping her maturation. One does not mature through solely dark events, for one needs light. Rudy is someone to take Leisel’s mind of off the troubles that surround them daily. Generally speaking for reality, everyone has somebody who gives them a positive mindset when they need it most. They can come in the form of a spouse, pet, or in Leisel and Rudy’s case, a best friend. I agree with Katy in that Zusak’s give away of Rudy’s death was peculiar. I am interested to see if Zusak will take his fresh form of writing and foreshadowing through the entire book. It is nice to be surprised by the way an author presents their story.

  7. katyhowells

    As the story goes on, the war seems to become more prevalent in the story and in Liesel’s life. The “Book Thief” goes along nicely with what our class is studying right now, World War 2. This part of the book gave a nice insight to the German people’s view of the war. By this time in the story, Liesel’s world has changed dramatically. In the course of only a chapter, Max has moved out, Rudy is recruited for war, and Papa is being sent to a war. Liesel’s life has turned entirely upside down. This sequence of events through me for quite the loop because of how fast paced it goes. In some books, progression is quite slow and I often lose track of the plot. In the “Book Thief” however, the writing is fast paced and keeps me coming back for more. My only conflict with this style of writing is the same as stated before. The Grim Reaper continues to give away future events, which is quite bothersome to me.
    Zusak does a great job of demonstrating the how powerless German people against Hitler. If one helped a Jew, one would be killed. If one was sent to war, one would go to war. And so on. It provides great insight to the fact that not all Germans participated in the ethnocentric movement of the Nazi Party. While many still did, some participated out of fear, as shown in the book. This knowledge will be extremely helpful as our class continues to study the impact of World War 2.

  8. In the third section of the book, the burdens of the war become more prevalent and many of the prominent relationships are hampered by its agonies. Liesel’s family is forced to house a Jew, and as a result, she becomes aware of the oppression and cruelty that accompany the war. However, she also learns more about the incredible power of words and how they are not only capable of telling stories, but that their meaning may either strengthen or blight a relationship. Max, the Jew that temporarily becomes a member of Liesel’s family, is a symbol of how one can accomplish greatness with the most meager supply of materials. With only the worn pages of the book, a can of paint, and some ink, Max manages to enlighten Liesel with his sorrowful, yet inspiring life story. Through Max and through her consistent reading sessions, Liesel comes to grips with the fact that words will define her and allow her to share her spirit with the world. When Liesel’s mother, Rosa, becomes deprived of her final laundry customer, the mayor’s wife, Liesel rages with words so painful that they stab into the wife’s heart with the precision and ferocity of a sharpened knife. Liesel learns that words empower her like nothing else, and this will be an important motive for her to maintain her reputation as “the book thief” in the future.

  9. Shannon Kehoe

    This section of the book exhibited the numerous aforementioned changes in Liesel’s family life and personal journey. I think Max is a large source of inspiration for Liesel. He sets an example for her and empowers her. Words and reading become priority in young Liesel’s life. She continues to read frequently throughout this quarter of “The Book Thief” and grows close with the jew her family is harboring, Max. As I said before, Max becomes a role model of sorts for Liesel. His tragedies shock her and help her identify with her new found ally. The hard-luck tales of Max’s past truly effect Liesel in a concrete way. I’m moved by their relationship and love for each other.

    I know there is tragedy left to come, which irritates and interests me. I’ve grown fond of the characters in “The Book Thief” and would hate for more sadness to take it’s toll on Liesel or Max’s existence. So much has been done to both characters. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the book plays out and ties up any loose ends. Liesel is someone I can identify with in the respect that we both enjoy words, writing, and reading. I really love this book and am glad I chose to read it.

  10. katyhowells

    I posted my response to the final section of the book thief before break, not realizing that I needed to rate it. This book was fabulous. I loved that the “The Book Thief” is a page turner filled with heartbreaking struggles, but also, filled with love and humor. My favorite character ended up being the Grimm Reaper, even though he gave bits of the book away. The interesting narration of this story made it unique and memorable. As a whole, I would give this book a 9 out of 10 stars. (Sorry, this is supposed to be added to my post up above!)

  11. Overall rating of The Book Thief: 9.5/10 stars

    Gut-wrenching pain. Extraordinary beauty. Powerful words. Unbreakable love. Excruciating Loss. Unforgivable death. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak certainly has it all. Never once as I read this incredible work of art was I lacking interest in the thought provoking works on the pages. After finishing one of the most moving stories I have ever been exposed to, I cannot help but contemplate Zusak’s unique ability to make the story of a girl who steals books into an emotional ride in which love, loss, beauty, and death all stem from words in some form. I never thought of life as a journey built upon a sea of words, but The Book Thief has certainly changed my perspective. Liesel, the main character in this novel, writes in her notebook towards the end of the story. She writes a phrase that continues to resonate with me even after I have set the novel aside: “I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.” Is that the ultimate goal of life? To make the words right? I think so. Zusak conveys the message that those who survive life’s agony and whose bright souls are willingly lifted from the ground as they die are those who value words above all else. Yes, Liesel hated words because of how they punished, tormented, and haunted her, but she knew that the words had to be loved. She spoke, heard, read, wrote, and breathed them throughout her journey, so when she stood in the ashes of the place she once called home, she could see her loved ones. The words she had cherished for so long created distinct images in her mind of her father playing the accordion, of her mother teasing her, of her best friend saving one of her beloved possessions from the river. The words kept Liesel alive. I hope I can find such value in them too.

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