Book review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

“First the colours. Then the humans. That’s usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try.

***HERE IS A SMALL FACT ***

You are going to die.”

And from those opening lines, you know that The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is going to be an unusual read. Narrated by Death, the story tracks the life of foster child Liesel Meminger. Starting with the heart-wrenching journey with her mother and dying brother to Munich to join Hans Hubermann and his wife Rosa. En route, Liesel’s brother dies, and it is at his funeral that Liesel steals her first book, a guide to grave digging. Devastated by the loss of her brother, his empty bed in the house of Hans and Rosa, and the perceived abandonment by her mother Liesel starts her life in Munich in silence. It is the love and gentleness of Hans Hubermann and an unlikely relationship with local boy Rudy Steiner that gradually brings Liesel back to life.

Set in World War II Germany this book weaves the stories of Liesel, Hans, Rosa, Rudy and Max Vandenburg, a Jew that the Hubermanns are hiding in their basement to protect him from the Nazis.

What I found most enjoyable about this book is the idea that books and reading are a way to both escapes from your current life into a different world and how sharing the experience of books and stories can bring people together. This theme features throughout the book and is the catalyst for Liesel’s relationship with Hans, Max, the mayor’s wife and the rest of the fearful residents of the street as they huddle for safety in an air-raid shelter with Liesel reading to them all.

Read this book. Then share it. That is what it is meant for.