The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

July 12, 2010
By Andres BRONZE, Atlanta, Georgia
Andres BRONZE, Atlanta, Georgia
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
“I’m like a dog chasing cars, I wouldn’t know what to do if I caught one, you know, I’d just do…things.”

There are three main components of this book that really make it a modern masterpiece: language, point of view, and character development. The Book Thief uses all three perfectly throughout the book to make the reader actually fall in love with the characters. Markus Zusak’s style, although not unique, is tailored to fit the genre of the novel. Although there are some aspects of that are not above critique, the novel is almost flawless in the emotion it portrays and the plot that unfolds before the reader is magnificent.

The language of the book is great in that it makes the book feel like a poem. It can almost be read in an Odyssey sort of way. There are several sentences that border on being too wordy or over the top but Zusak walks the line perfectly and keeps the language poetic. He also manages to mix in some German. I was a little apprehensive when I first began to see German words and phrases in the book. Nothing deters from the beauty of a writer’s language more than the German language itself. However, he managed to mix in just enough to give the book an authentic feel while at the same time keeping the poetic language pure and beautiful.
The point of view is obviously one of the best parts of the book and it can be seen in the first chapter. It is written from the point of view of Death and although some authors have tried it before, none have really mastered it in the same way that Zusak did. The idea of experiencing the world in colors is unique and it’s a real breath of fresh air. My only issue is that throughout the book, Zusak tends to forget a bit whose point of view he is representing and the fact that you are seeing Leisel’s story through Death’s eyes can be forgotten. I also loved that it was a WWII book about a German instead of a Jew. Most WWII books only look at the Holocaust aspect and this can get repetitive. It was great to read about others who were affected by this war.
The book is full of interesting characters and he develops them fairly well. Rudy Steiner is easily one of the best. His mindset and his admiration of Jesse Owens portrays the humiliation Adolf Hitler was facing after the Berlin Games and Jesse Owens’ complete domination of his “master race”. Hans Hubermann was, to me, a very weak character throughout the book until a certain point. For most of the book, he is simply a father figure to Leisel who never changes his very relaxed attitude. He seems too docile at times and his constant coddling of Liesel seems to impede her character growth at times. However, when he slaps Liesel for saying she hated the fuehrer, he suddenly gained a lot more substance. He became someone struggling with his own identity during a time when one’s identity could mean death. Max Vandenburg was interesting in that he did away with that image of the lowly, scared Jew that one always sees in WWII movies. Instead, he was the hard hitting fist fighter who never gave up. His survival shows his spirit.
One issue I had with this book is that there was no real antagonist. In a book about WWII, even the Nazi’s were not very menacing because they were never there. I could not feel myself rooting for Liesel at times because I could not see what she was fighting. At times, it felt as if Zusak was trying to make the Nazi state the antagonist but I didn’t feel the real danger throughout the book. If there had been more interaction or consequences of the Nazi’s throughout the book, maybe I would have felt differently. The Nazi’s were a shallow and weak antagonist throughout the book. Also, for a book that is all about being unique, using the Nazi’s as the antagonists is very unoriginal.
Overall, this is a fantastic summer read. Although I was not thrilled about the antagonist aspect, it was enough to keep me into it. The language is beautiful and the characters are artfully developed. Markus Zusak truly created a masterpiece when he wrote The Book Thief.

The author's comments:
I read this book a few years ago but up until now, I hadn't really thought about writing a review. My grandfather is a Holocaust survivor and once I started to really do some research and find out more about my history, I was inspired to reread this book and write a review.

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