From what I have read so far, this book is beyond incredible. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak manages to conquer a vast amount and quality of themes presented with an engaging plot and unique voice that I have only seen paralleled in To Kill A Mockingbird. There are a great deal of similarities between these two books, and the most obvious one is that the story is told predominantly from the eyes of a young girl. Throughout both books, perspectives and ideas are presented through the eyes of youth that adults or older humans simply could not see. This youthful lens provides unique insights and challenges the normality of the prejudice instilled in the societies of both of these books.
In the simplest of examples, Liesel, the main character, describes the weather outside for Max (The Jew that is being hidden in Liesel’s basement). She says, “The sky is blue today, Max, and there is a big long cloud, and it’s stretched out, like a rope. At the end of it, the sun is like a yellow hole…” (Zusak 249). The way Liesel is able to give such a detailed report and depict such unique similes (i.e. “like a yellow hole”) provides more depth to the weather than adults more weathered by life could comprehend. An adult might say “it is sunny” and be finished. But this attention to detail demonstrates, in the simplest of ways, how much there is to gain by recognising the beauty and complexity of even the most seemingly trivial things. This perhaps bland fact of the day recounted with fervour brings life and vivid imagery to Max, who otherwise would not have this experience.
This perspective is also shown when Liesel is able to question the prejudice and hatred towards Jewish people, similar to how Scout was able to question the prejudice in her community against black people. This was partially facilitated in both books by a compassionate father figure keeping the young children’s minds open. In To Kill A Mockingbird it was Atticus, and in The Book Thief it is Liesel’s foster father, Hans Hubermann. Both figures teach the young protagonist to read, and have a strong moral code that is not only against what society normalises, but also sets an example for the reader and the protagonist. Hans shows Liesel true compassion and fatherly love, though her foster mother is abusive and does not fill that role of a loving parent. This situation is similar to Aunt Alexandra living in Scout’s house, limiting her expression and providing narrow mindsets. Liesel’s foster mom is more literally abusive, but the parallel is still certainly there.
The Book Thief was published after To Kill A Mockingbird, and the amount of parallels between the two books certainly cannot be a coincidence. The fact that this book is so striking in such a similar way is an indicative sign that this is a fantastic and impactful book. I have a great deal more to talk about, and I am invested to see just what happens next.