Written from the perspective of Death, Markus Zusak tells the story of a young girl, Liesel, living in Nazi Germany in 1939. Shortly after her brother’s death, Liesel arrives at her new foster home with her foster parents, Rosa and Hans. During her stay, Hans teaches her to read, thus sparking a love for reading and all things books.
When the Nazi Party begins book-burning rallies, Liesel attends and steals books, becoming the book thief. Hans and Rosa also secretly house a Jewish man in their basement to hide him from the authorities. However, he soon leaves and the family is unsure of what happens to him. Liesel continues to steal books while living in Nazi Germany and eventually writes her own book.
If you’re looking for a quick recommendation, yes, I would definitely recommend this book!
This is easily one of the best historical fiction novels I’ve ever read and I would recommend it to just about anyone. I didn’t summarize the ending because it is both surprising and sad. Just in case you decide to read it, I don’t want to give it away. I first read this book in high school and I’ve loved it ever since. There is a movie adaptation, although I don’t remember much of it. Which probably speaks to how it stood in comparison to the book.
One of my favorite things about this book is the unique narrator, Death. This is the only book I’ve read written from the perspective of Death, and I believe it works for the story. The characters feel real, even as Death describes them. Hans is a role model for Liesel and Rosa is crotchety but loveable. Liesel’s friends and neighbors make such an impression on her that she continues to remember them, even later in life.
But her love for books is what drives her to trudge on through the difficult times due to her situation. The Jewish man, Max, who hides in their basement also gives her hope as he teaches her to read along with Hans. This story gives us a unique look into what the day-to-day life might have looked like for a young girl in Nazi Germany. It seems that many historical fiction novels set during the time period focus on the more well-known events.
But The Book Thief takes a different approach using every aspect of storytelling. The story may seem a bit slow at times, as it mostly consists of the day-to-day activities of an average family, but I believe this helps the reader grow fond of the characters. As they don’t appear to be heroic or above average. Liesel and her family are simply trying to survive and make the best of a terrible situation.
Overall, I would highly recommend this to a busy mom. Especially if you’re looking for a great read for a middle-schooler or high-schooler who loves history. However, the only thing I would caution you about is the ending and the context of the story. It’s sad. Not exactly the most uplifting story you’ll read, but it’s inspiring.
Five out of five stars
If you enjoyed my review of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, you might also like Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. Check out my review!
If you’re interested in purchasing The Book Thief, here are some quick links to buy the book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And, if you’re interested to see what others think, here’s the link to the book on Goodreads.