A Review + Reflection on 'The Book Thief'

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A review + reflection on Markus Zusak's 'The Book Thief'. A heart-wrenching and captivating story that takes place in Nazi Germany.

A review + reflection on Markus Zusak's 'The Book Thief'. A heart-wrenching and captivating story that takes place in Nazi Germany.

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  • 1. THE BOOK THIEF Review: This book is one of the best things that happened to me and it will forever be close to my heart. That is how good it is. Just the right mix of everything, Markus Zusak made a touching story with lively and heart-warming characters. The book was written so perfectly and the plot was well-knit together. It made me feel I was there with Liesel Meminger when she went painting with Hans Hubermann, when she delivered the washings to the mayor’s house, and when she was sobbing over the bomb-hit body of the boy whose hair would forever be the color of lemons. The book kept on taking twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat. Not to mention the fact that the book is narrated from a not so common point of view. Because it’s not everyday that we find Death telling a story. His bluntness and dark humor makes the story even more engrossing. When thought about, the story taking place and Nazi Germany and all the tragic events taking place during World War II, Death seems only fitting to tell such a bittersweet tale. Now moving on to the characters, they all have that something that makes you want to wallow in a pool of depression and wail to the heavens “why?!”: Liesel Meminger is a head-strong little lady who wants to learn and to grow. She fights for what she believes in and does anything in her power to protect others. Her mother (who was very sickly and couldn’t afford to take care of her children) gave up Liesel and her brother to the Hubermanns. Sadly, during the train ride to the Hubermanns, Liesel’s brother died. Some guards assisted setting up a swift burial. While the gravediggers were finishing up on the grave, a book fell out of one of the men’s pockets. Liesel was quick to pick it up and stash it in her jacket. Ever since then, she deserved the title “the book thief”. Learning to read from Hans Hubermann, she continued to steal books from book burnings and the mayor’s
  • 2. library to feed her hunger for words. Liesel didn’t die in the bombing of Munich (the street she lives on) because she was in the basement. Hans Hubermann, the adoptive father of Liesel, loves his family more than anything. He is the epitome of being a good father. Witty, patient and self-sacrificing, Hans’ accordion-heart is one of the most genuine out there. We all can’t forget the wooden-spoon loving Rosa Hubermann. The iron-fisted woman actually has a golden heart. Despite calling almost everybody an ‘arschloch’, Rosa becomes vulnerable in the scene where we find her cradling Hans’ accordion in sadness after he leaves for war. Both she and her husband met their end because of the bombing of Munich. Now on to my favorite character from the book, Mr. Rudy Steiner. Who wouldn’t love Rudy? No one. Rudy, with his hair the color of lemons, is the person we all need. He is absurdly selfless and caring. The boy defended Liesel at all times possible and put her needs before his own (Once, he jumped into a river in December which should make it unbelievably cold, just to get Liesel’s book which was thrown into the said body of water by a bully). But besides being the heroic super child he is, he is just such a boy. Always asking Liesel to kiss him (so maybe he’s too much of a boy) to which Meminger always declines and trying to steal things (alongside Miss Meminger), Rudy is the kind of character who draws you in despite not always being present in the book. Rudy died in the bombing of Munich (a death that was not deserved at all). Liesel, finding his body, breaks down and gives him what he’s always been asking for. A kiss. Max Vanerburg was a Jew who hid in the basement of the Hubermanns’. He was Liesel’s friend in the dark. He made books for Liesel and was one of the reasons that Liesel found hope in humanity. He left the basement after Hans Hubermann defended a Jew publicly, in the fear that they might check the household and find him lurking the basement and hurt the family that sheltered him. He returned after the bombing of Munich to find Liesel alive. Reflection:
  • 3. In the sense of moral lessons and themes, I believe that ‘The Book Thief’ shows that words are so very powerful and that humans are far more capable than they think. [The power of words] “I have hated the words, and I have loved the words, and I hope I have made them right.” --Liesel Meminger In the novel, words are given a great deal of importance. The story showed us how words can raise someone up or pull them down, how it could give you immense control or make you a follower. Words served as a pillar of strength for Liesel. She found solace in them, in writing, in understanding. Liesel used the power of the words she learned not to influence others badly but to comfort others. She read to the people when they were at the bomb shelter, she told Max about the weather when he was hiding in their basement which made him feel alive, she read to Frau Holtzapfel when the latter was mourning. Hitler, on the other hand, did the exact opposite. He planted wrong words and he watched the wrong grow. [Capabilities of humans] “I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it.” --Death Though we don’t usually acknowledge it, we humans have an unreasonable amount of power in our hands. We could shelter or ruin a human. Both of these extremes are showcased in the book. The Hubermanns and Liesel took care of Max, they fed him, they kept him, they even brought snow down to the basement just to
  • 4. build a snowman with him! All of this, could have jeopardized the family. But in their eyes, Vanderburg was already part of the family. But of course, such power is usually abused. The book also portrayed the cruelty and suffering the Jews underwent during the reign of Hitler. Humans always go on wishing they could have some super special power but little to never do they notice that they have the great choice on how to treat someone.