Book Reviews / Books

The Book Thief Book Review

08.13.21
The Book Thief

I’m well aware I say this about an awful lot of books that I read – and subsequently write about – on The Literary Edit, but I have been meaning to read The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak for absolutely yonks. First published sixteen years ago, I’ve owned various copies over the year – culminating one that Markus signed and dedicated to me after an event we hosted with him at Gertrude & Alice last year. I’ve genuinely lost count of the amount of the amount of people who’ve told me to read it over the years, but it was only when I recently recorded a podcast with Clay Zane Comber – author and owner of beautiful bookshop Bouquiniste – that I finally moved it to the top of my never ending TBR pile and sat down to read it.

The Book Thief Book Review

Suffice to say that The Book Thief is the only story I’ve read that’s been narrated by death, and within the first chapter or two I was able to see why it’s been hailed by so many as a modern classic.

A touching tale that follows the life of Liesel Meminger, a young girl who’s just shy of ten years old when we first meet her, The Book Thief is set is pre-WW II Germany. After her father’s capture and her brother’s death, she’s handed over to foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann who live on Himmell Street in the town of Molching, just outside Munich. And while Rosa is often foul-mouthed and abrasive, Hans swiftly becomes a beloved and supportive papa to the young girl.

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What follows is a poignant coming-of-age tale, in which the spirited young girl grows up against the backdrop of Nazi Germany. We witness her form a solid and strong friendship with local boy Rudy, develop a love for literature, fuelled by stolen books from the mayor’s wife’s library.

A beautiful, lyrical heart-wrenching and powerful tale, rich with ingenuity and imagination, The Book Thief is a love letter to words; to books; to their power for both good and evil and to friends that become family. It was well worth the wait.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak Summary

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.

By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

Buy The Book Thief from Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.

Further reading

I loved this TEDX talk, in which Markus Zusak explains how failure can often motivate us towards our greatest successes.

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Markus Zusak author bio

Markus Zusak is the author of five books, including the international bestseller, The Book Thief, which spent more than a decade on the New York Times bestseller list, and is translated into more than forty languages – establishing Zusak as one of the most successful authors to come out of Australia.

To date, Zusak has held the number one position at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, the New York Times bestseller list, as well as in countries across South America, Europe and Asia.

His books, The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, When Dogs Cry, The Messenger and The Book Thief have been awarded numerous honours ranging from literary prizes to readers’ choice awards to prizes voted on by booksellers.

More Markus Zusak books

Markus Zusak has also written The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, When Dogs Cry, The Messenger and Bridge of Clay.

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