Review of “The Book Thief”

December 12, 2018 |  Tagged , | Comments Off on Review of “The Book Thief”

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Rebecca Voisich

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 “I am haunted by humans”. This is the last line of The Book Thief, written by Markus Zusak. The book is a story about a girl, a boy, a fighter, and death. Set in Nazi Germany, the author tells the story of Liesel Meminger; the girl who lost her brother and became a book thief. Narrated by Death himself, The Book Thief  possesses a tone of darkness and melancholy one would expect to find in a book about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. What is surprising, however, is that if one were to walk into any Barnes and Noble, they would find this novel under Young Adult Fiction. Originally produced as an adult fiction novel in Zusak’s home of Australia, the book was advertised as YA in the U.S. One could argue, which I will, that The Book Thief is equally a must-read for any adult, while simultaneously providing YA literature with one of its’ most powerful and influential books.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 When reviewing a new Holocaust fiction novel, the question on everyone’s mind is, Is it historically accurate? This is a difficult question to answer, however, because fiction will never be an academic journal or monograph; it’s fiction for a reason; the story is made up. The stories protagonist, Liesel, has a best friend named Rudy who she plays soccer with in the street and foster parents named Rosa and Hans Hubermann. In a small town outside of Munich, the Hubermanns take in Liesel and the reader is given a glimpse into what it was like in Germany during WWII. Parents were shipped off to war, family members died, and new families were created. The Hubermanns become one such family. Certain scenes in the books, like the book burning in the streets led by the Nazis, do well to display and describe the real, historical event of book burnings. Details are of course left out, but the historical descriptions throughout the novel can be trusted; Zusak did his homework.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 The Book Thief  has received criticism for not accurately depicting anti-Semitism; the book has been accused of making it seem like it did not exist in Germany, as if most people were good and were willing to help out their Jewish neighbors. I disagree with this entirely; not only does the author highlight characters who exhibit racist rhetoric and beliefs, he also describes the real internal struggle the Hubermanns have after taking in Max. Even though they are shown doing the right thing by taking in Max, the young Jewish man seeking asylum from the Nazis, Zusak highlights their weaknesses as well by describing the times they are scared, the times they wish they never took on this burden. This, in my opinion, is why this book pays homage to history; Zusak exemplifies the ‘grey’ moments, the day to day occurrences of people living under the Nazi regime.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 For this very same reason, I believe this book should be found in high school classrooms. I first read The Book Thief when I was in high school and it changed the way I thought about the Holocaust and the history of WWII. I think so often history is taught as a series of “this happened because of this, and then that happened because of that”, “some Germans helped Jews, and some didn’t”. This teaching of history might provide someone with the basic facts, but it doesn’t provide the context in which these choices were being made. Just because something happened in history, it doesn’t mean it was going to happen that way no matter what. Markus Zusak, and other great fiction writers, have the opportunity to fill in some of these blanks using historical fact mixed with literary license. This book is important for young adults because it produces themes of mortality, and hope, and love, and evil, and effortlessly depicts them all as existing together. Isn’t that how life works? The best, most worthy fighters lose battles and little girls have to live without their brothers, but new families can be created out of love and sacrifice and sometimes, even Death, shows some mercy.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0  


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