A Review of ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief is a marvelous novel detailing a girl’s, Liesel Meminger’s, experiences growing up in Germany just prior to and during World War II. It is narrated by Death, who in Markus Zusak’s skillful hands becomes a sympathetic figure, as he relates, among other things, the death of Liesel’s brother and the loss of her mother, Liesel’s relationship with her foster parents (Hans and Rosa Hubermann) and her growing friendship with a young boy named Rudy Steiner. Much of the novel centers around Liesel’s relationship with Max Vandenburg, a Jewish fist fighter, who has taken up residence in the Hubermann’s cellar in order to hide from the Nazis. Although a work of fiction, The Book Thief additionally provides a partial answer to the question that has plagued the rest of the world ever since the horrors of the Holocaust were discovered: How could they, the German people, have stayed silent as they saw emaciated people being herded through their towns, or saw the thick plumes of smoke billowing from the smoke stacks at Auschwitz? Apart from those people who genuinely supported the Nazis and believed that the Jewish people and other “undesirables” were to blame for all their misfortunes, the answer is quite simple: if you spoke out, you died. Very few people are willing to risk their own lives in order to combat evil that does not threaten them personally. Hans, Rosa and Liesel were three such people, all of who hated the Nazi regime and did what they could, however small their efforts were forced to be, to help those who had been unfairly scapegoated by Hitler.
I would recommend this novel to anyone who is interested in World War II or the Holocaust, human motivation, likes unique narrative stories and narrative voices, or who enjoys novels with philosophical themes.