Book Thief (Review)

Labels: A Lighter Touch


The Book Thief
Marcus Zusak, 2005
552 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
June 2008

Hard to believe, but Random House classified this as a juvenile work—and librarians dutifully shelved it in Young Adult sections.  But now they're now moving it over into Adult Fiction—as so many of the 30-and-counting-crowd have come love it!

The Book Thief is the story of a young girl living with a foster family, from 1941-44, in Molching, Germany, a village outside Munich and home to the Dachau concentration camp.

Liesel, an endearing and engaging heroine, experiences profound love as well as a profound horror of war and Nazi Germany.

Mostly, it's a book about books and the power words have to shape our world: they're capable of creating a vision of a better world—or a hell on earth. Liesel, who arrives in Molching unable to read, gradually learns by painting words on a wall (a marvelous symbol). She comes to treasure books—so much so that she's compelled to steal them.

There's so much to like about this book—starting with the narrative voice of Death, who tries to gain our sympathy (works so hard—never gets a vacation). Awed by humans' generosity as well as cruelty, Death recounts Liesel's story with ironic detachment, making an occasional joke along the way, but always with the sad observation that we humans are the cause of our own suffering. Death insists that he-she-it (?) can't be held responsible for dying—but comes, only when called, to gather up souls.

Rich and lively discussions will be forthcoming for this one!

See our Reading Guide for The Book Thief


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