Death speaks in The Book Thief

Katie Maxwell, Staff Reporter

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a unique type of Holocaust era book that stands out from any other on the market. What makes it different isn’t the depressing mood or the common themes of dehumanization, guilt, or abandonment, but rather the perspective from which it is told and the focus on its main character.

The Book Thief begins with the narrator, who is Death, introducing himself, the colors, and the book thief. Eventually, the reader learns that the book thief is a young girl named Liesel Meminger, who has been given up by her mother to be cared for by two foster parents. Liesel is taken to a suburb of Munich called Molching where her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, live. It takes some time for Liesel to adjust to life in Molching, but she is helped by Hans and her friend Rudy Steiner.  Hans, who Liesel eventually comes to refer to as Papa, helps her learn to read during midnight sessions. Liesel’s illiteracy is what drives her to steal books, but even after she knows how to read, her love of words continues her obsession to steal. Rudy is another important character to Liesel because he becomes her best friend. They do everything together; from running about town and going to school to stealing food and books. Just as Liesel becomes comfortable in Molching, World War Two begins and Liesel’s foster parents take in a Jewish refugee. Liesel’s life will never be the same again.

Although The Book Thief stays true to the traditional Holocaust story, it has its own unique twist that no other book has. As the narrator, Death has the opportunity to become a character and express what he truly feels. He isn’t just a tool that is used to collect human spirits as they die, he has thoughts and feelings about every moment in the story. One of the best examples of Death’s emotions is his dry humor and wit. He always adds his own sadistic opinion to the book’s events, and that makes the book funny. Another interesting twist to The Book Thief is that its main character is a young German girl that grows up in Nazi Germany. Instead of a story that highlights a Jewish person or someone in a concentration camp, The Book Thief is about a German. By basing the story around a German instead of a Jew, the reader experiences a perspective that is not often used. Through this perspective, the reader learns that not all Germans were Nazis and not all Germans wanted to eradicate the Jews.

All of the main characters were dynamic and lifelike, even the least important characters seemed real. Each one had their own hopes, secrets, and dreams. The author, Markus Zusak, did a wonderful job of developing his characters into interesting individuals that one would want to read about.

While reading this book, there were not many things to criticize. Occasionally the plot was not always clear. Death often forshadowed events to come that did not always make sense or flow with the story. This was the one aspect of the story that was not very good because it was often confusing.

Overall, The Book Thief is an excellently written book that not only pulls the reader in through captivating characters and an interesting concept, but it also keeps one wondering about what will happen next. Markus Zusak has written a masterpiece that is sure to become a classic.