The Book Thief

Time to talk about April’s Book Club selection: The Book Thief!

book thief

You may also find other PBF book reviews and discussions on my Books page if you’re in the market for some new reading material.

Brief Summary

The Book Thief takes place in Germany during World War II. It follows the life of Liesel Meminger, a young girl who, at the beginning of the novel, is given by her birth mother to foster parents in Molching who look out for her and raise her as their own.

The book is narrated by death. Death meets Liesel numerous times throughout her life, and the story weaves around these incidents.

Very early on in her life, Liesel steals her first book and, with the help of her foster father, learns to read and discovers a passion for words. She acquires a handful of books throughout her life and each play an important role in her journey and bond Liesel to those around her, from her neighbors to the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

My Review (Includes spoilers!)

I have always been enamored with novels set in WWII ever since I read Number the Stars in elementary school. I had a feeling I would enjoy The Book Thief since it is set during a time period that fascinates me and I found myself enamored with the writing style of the author. I thought that using Death as a narrator was extremely creative and captivating.

While I didn’t think the book was a suspenseful page-turner like Sarah’s Key, I looked forward to reading it every night. In the past, most WWII novels I’ve read revolve around a Jewish man, woman or child and I thought it was interesting to read one that revolved around a girl who was not Jewish (though she definitely didn’t support Hitler).

I fell in love with the people Liesel loved and looked forward to reading about Rudy, Papa and Max. I felt invested in Liesel and attached to each poignant character which made the inevitable deaths of Rudy and Papa very emotional for me. I sat in bed, The Book Thief propped up on my knees, with tears streaming down on my face after the bombing that killed Rudy and Papa occurred, especially when Liesel reacted to seeing their bodies with such raw emotion that the author captured beautifully.

There were moments woven throughout the book that struck me emotionally and compelled me to keep reading as I became more and more invested in the characters. The snowball fight in the basement. Liesel’s reaction to seeing Max march through the streets en route to Dachau. Papa’s gentle reaction to Liesel’s nightmares and bed-wetting incident. The Standover Man.

The Book Thief was, without a doubt, an emotional and captivating read.

And oh how I wish Liesel would’ve kissed Rudy before he died!

Max and Liesel’s Future?

After I wrote my review, I read through your reviews (I always try to write mine before reading any so I get everything out without being swayed!) and then I read some discussion questions and reviews from other people.

I stumbled upon a list of questions, one of which conveys the thought that Liesel and Max end up together… married. This totally threw me for a loop and I didn’t take that away from the book at all, so I’m curious as to whether or not any of you assumed that they got married in the end. Did I totally miss this!?

Blogger Link Up

Additional reviews of The Book Thief may be found on the following blogs:

Discussion Questions

  1. What did you think of the author’s use of Death as the narrator?
  2. Did you like how the author told you about the deaths to come before they occurred? Did that intrigue you or upset you in any way?
  3. Who was your favorite character? Why?
  4. Do you think Liesel and Max ended up together in the end?

Comments

  1. says

    I actually did kind of think Liesel and Max might end up having some kind of romantic relationship later in life!
    I thought using death as the narrator was creative, but overall, I didn’t like the author’s writing style. I thought it was a bit choppy and hard to follow. I don’t think I really had an opinion about the author telling us about the deaths before they occurred. I guess it made everything a little less suspenseful though. My favorite character was probably Hans – he just seemed like such a hardworking, nice man with a good heart.

    I’m going to take your advice and read Sarah’s Key soon!

      (Quote)

  2. Emily says

    I read the book two summers ago while I was in a small town near Munich, so it was really meaningful to me… I often imagined it was my town.

    1. Using death as a narrator was definitely interesting. Although I’m not generally into “that kind of thing,” I did think it was effective in this case… Probably because I was still able to connect with Liesel.
    2. I remember being surprised when all of her friends and family died. But, then again, that was often the reality in those German towns.
    3. I loved Papa. His death was the saddest part to me.
    4. I did actually get the impression that Liesel and Max had a romantic future, but it’s only alluded to.

    The book sparked a discussion between me and my host-mother about her family’s experiences during the war. She actually had two uncles who died while fighting for the Germans, which made me feel really conflicted because I was sorry for her family’s loss, but I (and she) also knew how horrible the Nazi party’s actions were.

      (Quote)

  3. says

    1. I really liked that part of the book. It was certainly the most interesting, since I wasn’t expecting it at all. At times it got a little kitschy, what with the references to scythes and the like, but I thought it was a unique narrative device that let the voice telling the story know more about all of the characters than a normal omniscient narrator would have.
    2. It did make me sad at points, yes, but it also made me anticipatory–I wanted to keep reading because Rudy, for instance, got into so many scrapes that I was sure the *next* one would be his (tragic) end. I think it also served to reinforce the nature of war and human conflict that the book really drove home–its ultimate futility.
    3. Rudy stole my heart, I’m not going to lie to you. I just wish Liesl had kissed him when she had the chance!
    4. I wondered about that, too, but it made me feel icky as a reader. Since he’s supposed to be 24, and she was about 10, I found myself considering them more as a brother/sister pair than romantically destined for each other.

    Great book club read!!

      (Quote)

  4. says

    I’m glad you enjoyed the book! I read it for a Book Club last year (old review here: xhttp://mmmstories.com/2011/02/27/spilling-it-to-strangers/) and thought it was the best book ever. Seriously.
    It isn’t totally fresh in my mind but I thought the most interesting part of the story was Death’s narrative. I thought his ruining of typical plot points or climaxes made the book that much more raw and emotional. And I had the same experience as you during the bombing scene. The idea of Max and Liesel having some sort of romantic relationship popped up in my head but I really don’t think that was the point of this story. They needed each other as an outlet or in a brother/ sister way.
    I think the power of books is the ability to see things from a different perspective. My grandmother fled Germany in the 1930s and my step-grandmother survived five concentration camps during the Holocaust, and I never, before reading this book, considered or connected with the losses for the German soldier’s families. There were many cases of civilian heroism, like in this story, and I’m glad books from this genre draw attention. Never Forget.

      (Quote)

  5. Katie says

    I thought the authors use of death as the narrator was very interesting and I really enjoyed it. Even though it was Nazi Germany (and obviously bad things happened during that time), I felt like Death wasn’t scary. The way Death was narrating made it almost a beautiful thing to die – which I fully believe it can be. It’s a part of life. It felt like a matter of fact thing and it didn’t make me as upset as if it was perceived as something awful.

      (Quote)

  6. says

    I love your review! I didn’t get mine in to you on time, but here’s my link: http://abetterlifewithburgers.blogspot.com/2012/04/wiaw-and-book-thief.html.

    Whoa, I totally didn’t pick up on the Liesel and Max thing! I saw him more as a much older man, though I guess he wasn’t THAT much older, huh? I just viewed him as a brother or another father figure. Crazy!

    I also really loved the perspective of a non-Jewish family. It was a really interesting and eye-opening way to tell the story.

    Thanks for your book club, Julie! It’s so fun!

      (Quote)

  7. says

    She did kiss him!!! At least I think so, it was a very short chapter when they went to his father’s closed store to get him a suit to wear for Christmas Eve, he fell over and she kissed him! I may have misinterpreted it, but that’s what I gathered from it. I LOVED this book, mostly because I fell in love with the characters and could really understand and feel their emotions. So well written.

      (Quote)

  8. Katie says

    I read The Book Thief in a class in college and I loved it. It was a few years ago so I can’t remember everything about the story anymore, but I remember crying like a baby at the end! I kept the book after that class so it was obviously a good read! :)

      (Quote)

  9. says

    I love historical fiction, especially set in WWII. may have to check this one out myself. I also need to dig up your review on Sarah’s Key, it’s also something I’ve wanted to try!!

    Have fun on your cruise!!

      (Quote)

  10. says

    This book was extremely captivating as you said- not suspenseful, but I found myself staying up very late reading it, and it didn’t take me long to finish it either. I related to Liesel and it made me cry like a baby when Rudy died…This was one of those books where I really felt all the characters emotions.

    I’m a big fan also of Sarah’s Key- highly recommend it!

      (Quote)

  11. says

    I teach an entire mini-unit on point-of-view, and I use The Book Thief as an incredibly creative example of a fascinating POV. Death as a narrator could be so dark, so morbid—but I think Zusak handles it masterfully and beautifully. One of my favorite pieces of modern fiction, hands down!

      (Quote)

  12. says

    Last year this book sparked my YA obsession that has yet to stop. The Death character was simply brilliant. It was so haunting and added a dimension to the story that wouldn’t have been achiever, if say Liesel were the narrator. I was so intrigued by Zusak’s voice. I can’t wait to read “I am the Messenger”! I’m having such trouble getting my hands on a copy.

      (Quote)

  13. says

    It’s been a while since I read the Book Thief, but I have enjoyed seeing my students get into it the past month or so! They are reading it for their communication arts class, and at first they all thought they hated the book, because they had just read the first chapter and were so confused. But then within a few days they LOVED it – I adore seeing kids getting so into reading!

      (Quote)

  14. says

    I actually wasn’t sure whether or not the book was insinuating that Max and Leisel end up together, but it sounds like most people got that impression so I’m gonna go with it! It’s funny, in response the question about Death giving away the deaths to come–even though I knew that Rudy died, I still sort of didn’t believe it until it actually happened, and part of me kept insisting that Leisel and RUDY would end up together. In that way, the predictions almost didn’t affect my enjoyment and suspense. I guess as adult readers we’re probably relatively set in our ways in terms of how we read novels, so the author could get away with it without ruining our experience?

      (Quote)

  15. Margo says

    I LOVED The Book Thief when I read it last year. Like you, I love books set in WWII and the first one that got me hooked was Number the Stars (I thought I was the only one who knew what that book was!). I have read several others that you have recommended and I really liked Sarah’s Key too. I love that you promote healthy bodies and minds on your blog!

      (Quote)

  16. says

    I crieeed when Rudy died :( I wanted her and him to kiss so badly and the thoughts running through her mind when he died…Ugh so heart wrenching :( But I really liked Death as a narrator just because it was so different and the author captivated it really well.

      (Quote)

  17. Taryn says

    I didn’t think that Max and Liesel ended up together, but I did question it.

    It took me two tries to get into this book. I was really disappointed when I started reading it and just couldn’t get into it. Once I opened it on my Kindle a week or two later though I absolutely could not put it down. I too was a HUGE fan of “Number the Stars” and was thrilled when my school put on the play in junior high. I’ve always been fascinated with the Holocaust and I was expecting this book to be from the perspective of a young Jewish girl. It was definitely an eye opener to get a different perspective. Every time I felt like Liesel got close to giving Rudy that kiss I found myself skimming ahead to see if it would happen. They were MEANT to be together!

      (Quote)

  18. Luke says

    This book is always changing. In a great way.

    In the beginning, you will be dying to burn this book it is so slow and boring. Believe me it is painful reading it. However, once you bypass the first 75 pages the pace picks up and the plot draws you in. Just be patient in the first part, but also be attentive, as the beginning holds many important parts.

    Another thing to keep in mind about this book that also has to do with the pace of it is so much like real life. It is not all awesome and fun to read and action packed, the book also is very slow and boring in some parts, however, Markus Zusak often includes important dialogue in those parts so as I said before do not put this book down if it gets boring.

    Also, keep in mind that this book is very up and down emotionally too. On one page there may be a a great joke or act from Rudy but on the next page Liesel will witness executions or something sad and horrible. You never know what will happen until it does.

    Overall:
    9 and 1/3 out of 10

      (Quote)

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply