An Inspiring, Captivating Novel: The Book Thief

Daniela Navarrete, Editorial Writer

The Book Thief is an amazing, moving 552 page novel by Markus Zusak, and every page is completely worth it. I cannot think about a single thing I do not love about it, except for the fact that it made me cry the first time I read it.

It is a historical fiction book and mostly takes place in the town of Molching in Nazi Germany. There is so much going on in the book, but in short, it is about a young girl, Liesel, who steals books. After her brother suddenly dies and is subsequently buried, Leisel sees a book accidentally left behind by one of the gravediggers. It becomes the first of many books that she will steal.

Liesel is then taken into foster care and moves to Molching with Hans and Rosa Hubermann. After establishing a content life with them and her books, her life is completely changed when her family introduces Max into their home, a Jew who they hide in their basement. She forms a very strong friendship with him, which mostly revolves around reading. Unfortunately, in a country that was becoming increasingly dangerous for Jewish people and their sympathizers, happy times for them did not last.

My favorite part of this novel is the choice of narrator: Death. Death is a character who sees everything, so he knows everything. He is the one who takes people’s souls to the afterlife after they die. The choice of narrator is so genius because through his eyes, we can truly see the tragedy of the events that were taking place. He reveals to us the staggering number of people who die throughout the novel. We can see who has escaped him, who was not so lucky, and what happened in people’s last moments.

Death is portrayed as someone with feelings who is almost human. He is not an evil being who takes characters away, he merely does his job, often reflecting on both the destruction and beauty caused by humanity and how it perplexes him. As he is the one telling the story, he often chimes in with reflective and sometimes even humorous comments, which help humanize him even more.

Though 552 pages may seem long, the story is so captivating that it felt like nothing. It’s also very easy to understand. While at times it deals with serious topics, it is by no means a boring book.

I read this book for the first time a few years ago, and it really changed my outlook on life. Since Liesel grows up throughout the novel, I think many people of different ages can find a way to connect with the novel. At the risk of sounding cliché, it really made me appreciate what I have, including things so simple as the freedom to read and the knowledge that the people I love are safe.

Lastly, since it is National Poetry Month, here is a famous poem by Emily Dickinson, “Because I could not stop for Death.” It reminds me a lot about The Book Thief as it deals with the inevitability of death and it also portrays Death as a character, in the most beautiful way possible.

“Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –

Or rather – He passed Us –
The Dews drew quivering and Chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –

Since then – ’tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –”