Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

January 6, 2014
Author: Markus Zusak
Publisher: Definitions
Year: 2008
ISBN: 9781862302914
Rating: ★★★★★
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The Book Thief is a New York Times bestseller by American author Markus Zusak. It has won numerous awards and was turned into a motion film by the same name in 2013. Set in Nazi Germany of World War II, it is a story of a young German girl who is torn between hope and devastation. Her only solace is the books she steals.

A small fact about the Book
“I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious and its words so damning and brilliant”

The Book Thief will break your heart, but it will also mend it. But then again, you don’t expect a happy ending from a book that is narrated by Death itself. The Book Thief is a chilling story, yes I say chilling. It is not sad or tragic or valiant, it is pure cold. Don’t get me wrong though, it has moments of sunshine too.

Set in Nazi Germany, this is the story of a young German girl who steals books, makes friends with a Jew and is witness to the devastation caused by Hitler. The story is based in the fictional town of Molching on Himmel Street, and is perhaps a moving recollection of the Nazi times in Germany. Liesel Meminger, the book thief, has an irresistible urge to read and thus she steals books. These books however aren’t just a random selection. Each title that she steals, reflects her life, it says something about the story. If you observe closely, you will see that each book stolen is a small dot that connects the story together.

There are times when you completely forget that this is a work of fiction. No, it all seems real. Liesel Meminger (the young girl), Max Vandenburg (the Jew), Hans Hubermann (Liesel’s foster father), Rudy Steiner (Liesel’s partner in crime) all seem like people who actually existed. All the events seem like they actually happened and it makes you smile and cry. How could something so brutal, yet hopeful, be fabricated? That is the genius of the author.

A small fact about the narrator
“Even Death has a heart”

You might expect Death to be cold, with a hood and a scythe. You might expect death to be the villain. But Death is merely a narrator. And just like the reader, Death too feels sad and moved by the events and the people in the story. Death tells you the story with warmth, sometimes being straightforward and sometimes saving the best for the last. There are even times when you end up sympathising with Death.

On a lighter note, Death gives away quite a few spoilers. Death tells you certain things way before you want to know them or accept them (since deep inside you know it’s inevitable). All said, the narration won’t let your attention waver as you flip from one page to another.

A small fact about words
“The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn’t be any of this”

The plot of this book, in one way, revolves around the power of words. Words that destroy (Hitler’s speeches). Words that heal (Max’s stories to Liesel). Markus Zusak’s words are a reflection of the same idea. His language is poetic. His sentences can be as sharp as a razor cutting through your skin or as comforting as a warm embrace. Either way, this story couldn’t have been worded better. The Book Thief is a slow read, not because of the pace of the story, but because each sentence is so beautiful that you want to read and re-read it again, till it gets engraved in your memory. So it would be fair to say that it is not a slow read, but it should certainly be read slowly.

A small fact about this review
“I am haunted by Humans”

I have too many feelings about this book and too little, or rather, inadequate words to describe them. It reminds you a bit of To Kill A Mockingbird and Anne Frank’s Diary. Truly, this book can’t be compared to anything else. It wouldn’t be fair. I have rated it a five star, which most reviewers refrain from doing. Five stars don’t mean that there can’t be a better book or that this is the epitome of storytelling (although a small part of me does believe that). These five stars simply mean that this book is a complete reading experience and you should pick it up without giving it a second thought. Brilliant words tell a brilliant story in a simple way- that is The Book Thief.

You can find details about The Book Thief (movie) here.

Fatema Diwan

Fatema Diwan

Writer at IndiaBookStore
Books and Coffee are my favorite things in the world. I fit in my life between my last book and my next. Will live happily ever after in a library.
Favorite Book So Far- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Fatema Diwan


  • Vanathi Parthasarathi January 6, 2014 at 4:13 AM

    A great review! It aptly describes the book 🙂

    • Mugdha January 7, 2014 at 4:32 AM

      Glad you liked the review, Vanathi!

  • Shushant Mojumdar January 6, 2014 at 6:31 AM

    great review makes one read the book

    • Mugdha January 7, 2014 at 4:31 AM

      A lot of folks absolutely love this book. A good choice to make if you’re looking for something interesting!

  • richasingh January 6, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    I lurveeee this book! It is one my favorite reads 🙂

    • Mugdha January 7, 2014 at 4:30 AM

      Glad you liked it, Richa!

  • Jeena R. Papaadi January 7, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    This was recommended to me a while back, but I got around to it only a few weeks ago. It’s a wonderful book with an awe-inspiring narration.
    Good review.

    • Fatema Diwan January 7, 2014 at 2:10 PM

      I agree with you. I wish somebody had recommended this one to me sooner. Thanks Jeena. 🙂

  • Kokila Gupta July 18, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    “If you observe closely, you will see that each book stolen is a small dot that connects the story together”….. this line has intrigued me and am dying to get the complete reading experience! You have reviewed it beautifully of that I am sure even without reading it 🙂

    • IndiaBookStore July 18, 2014 at 12:14 PM

      Do read the book and share your own impressions with us!

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