The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Time Period: 1930s-1940s (World War II/ Holocaust)
Setting: Molching, Germany
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rate: 5/5 stars!
Let me just say that this is one of my favorite books that I’ve ever read! It made me laugh, cry, and really think about history.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a historical fiction novel that takes place during World War II and the Holocaust. The main character is a German girl named Liesel Meminger who, in January of 1939, was sent to live with a couple named the Hubermanns in the little fictional town of Molching, Germany.
This is a story that stretches over four years about Liesel Meminger, her new family in Molching, the friends she makes, and how she becomes “the book thief.”
But, this book is not narrated by her. The Book Thief is very unique in the fact that it is narrated by Death. Death is given human qualities and a voice as it travels all over the world, picking up souls from the war. As it travels through Germany, Death notices a little German girl and becomes very interested in her story. So, we get to read about Liesel from Death’s perspective.
It took Liesel a while to warm up to her new foster family and her new town. But, soon she was calling the Hubermanns “Mama” and “Papa.” Her relationship with her Papa especially was really sweet and one of the best things about this book. They lived on 33 Himmel Street. In the book, Death informs the readers that Himmel translates to heaven. “Whoever named Himmel Street has a healthy sense of irony. Not that it was a living hell. It wasn’t. But it sure wasn’t heaven, either.”
To twelve-year old Liesel, it became the closest thing to Heaven that she had ever known. Especially because of the friendships that she made. Her best friend was a boy named Rudy, who had hair like lemons and wanted to be Jesse Owens when he grew up. Even though she missed her mother and brother, Liesel adjusted to her new life by going to school, joining the Hitler Youth, and slowly building a library in her room at the Hubermanns’ house.
When an unexpected visitor arrived at the Hubermann home, Liesel made a new friend – one that would last for a lifetime. This visitor was dangerous and brought a small terror on the Hubermanns, but at the same time, he brought them a little more laughter and hope for a brighter future.
Liesel’s love for reading played a huge part in this story. The first book Liesel stole was The Grave Digger’s Handbook. She found it laying in the snow in the graveyard where she and her mother buried her brother in early January of 1939, before she traveled to Himmel Street.
This book was what sparked Liesel’s interest in reading. With it, her foster father, Hans Hubermann, taught her how to read for the very first time.
The next two books Liesel added to her collection were given to her for Christmas, payed for by Hans’s cigarettes. I love how, even though the Hubermanns were extremely poor, they bought her two books for Christmas because of how much she loved to read.
Then, Liesel stole her second book in April of 1940. She stole it from a bonfire of banned books in the center of their town. It was called The Shoulder Shrug. The remaining books that Liesel stole, she took from the huge library inside the mayor of Molching’s house.
While Liesel’s life wasn’t too bad at first, the threats of the war drew closer to her own town. All the basements of the houses in Molching were checked out to find the safest bomb shelters for people to run to. The war raged all around them. This book really illustrates the horrors of World War II to innocent people in Germany, and it shows how terrible the Holocaust was for the 4.5 million Jews that were gathered up and sent to concentration camps.
Many people think history is not important to know for these modern-day times. But, we must remember past events so that we never repeat them.
I also love the significance of books in this story. Books helped Liesel grow as a person. They helped her realize who she was and why words were so important to the world and to herself. Later on in the novel, Liesel turned her knowledge of reading into her own written word. She began to write down her own story. The story of her life on Himmel Street, Germany in one of the scariest time in our world’s history.
“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
The ending of this book made me cry more than any other book I have ever read. Of course, I will not spoil it for you, but it is totally worth the read. This is a story I will never forget. The binds of friendships between the characters, despite the war raging around them and threatening their lives, are some I will always remember. There is seriously no other book like The Book Thief.