The Book Thief

Abril 17, 2012

It was one of those ordinary afternoons when I accidentally found myself in a book store that I grabbed a copy of this book. I really had no intentions of buying one that day, I was just looking around and doing a little scouting of book titles that I can possibly purchase the next time I come for a visit. I reached the shelf for Teens and that was where I found The Book Thief. It was an unplanned encounter, but I am definitely grateful that it happened. Otherwise, I would have missed out on an excellently written book.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is set in Germany during the Second World War. It relates the story of a young girl named Liesel whose life has been tremendously affected by the war happening around her. It narrates how she earned the title The Book Thief and the important role that her stolen books played during bombing raids and in shaping her view of human relationships. It also talks about the bonds she forms with her foster parents, her neighbors, and a Jewish man who hides in their basement during the height of the Second World War. Interestingly, the book is told as perceived by Death, described in the book as a sympathetic entity with a penchant for describing death scenes with colors.

The Things I Like About This Book

  • The book’s theme. I have always been fascinated by war stories and knowing that the story took place during the war years in Germany, it instantly caught my attention. Finishing the book however, one would realize it is so much more than that. It is a story about human relationships, and how it sometimes appears as though only a minority of us truly understand the concept of friendship and love. War and Death are merely backdrop to this wonderful story of human nature.
  • The story’s narrator. Death serves as storyteller in the book. Usually, one views death in the same light as war – bloody, inhuman, savage, merciless. But the author did an excellent job in repackaging Death as the complete opposite. Death to me, even came off as peace-loving, condoling, commiserating –  far from the scythe-wielding hooded figure I had always imagined him to be.
  • Death as omniscient.  During war, death happens everywhere. Hence,  he is in more than one place at the same time. He witnessed how each soul departs from the body, and knows every single person who dies. And each death is told in the book before it happens. Death will tell you the fate that each character has beforehand. But does it change anything? Personally, I believe it doesn’t. Death is still death, regardless whether you know it is bound to happen soon.
  • Zusak’s artistry with words. Before reading a rather thick book (for me “thick” is anything that goes beyond 500 pages), I do a lot  of self-motivation. When I am beginning to find the story a little boring, I convince myself that the good stuff are yet to happen in the next 20 or 30 pages.  I would put it down, read other books or do other things, and return to it only when I finally feel compelled to finish it. But none of these happened in the course of my reading The Book Thief. And I attribute it to Zusak’s natural poetry. Zusak is truly a genius of a writer. He speaks in simple terms, uses simple words, but the effect that his words create to the reader is anything but simple. You will be drawn to read every line, to fully comprehend each. They appear very simple yet the message they deliver are so profound. Characters are vividly described, each one created as real as possible. Only writers with a natural talent with words can string all of these elements together without compromising the general feel of the story.
  • The war as seen by the supposed bad guys. Majority of the main characters in the book are German. In fact, all the main characters except for one, are German. It happened in one German neighborhood and their lives are no different from those of  most Germans during that time. And as what most accounts from the second world war and the holocaust would have us believe, the Germans here are the bad guys. Hitler is German, and it was in their hands that innocent Jews were killed.  That’s exactly what this story tried to defy. This book offers a different perspective. It presents how ordinary Germans that time were in as much risk of being killed as their Jewish counterparts. War never favors anyone.
  • Liesel, Hans, Max, Rosa and Rudy. Each character is different but each one is sure to touch your heart. While reading, I am reminded of those cartoons I used to watch when I was young, the likes of Romeo’s Blue Skies, (Mga Munting Pangarap ni Romeo), and Remi, Nobody’s Girl.

To sum it up, this is definitely one book I would recommend others to read. It is one of my favorite reads to date and I am hoping that other readers out there would enjoy reading The Book Thief the same way I did.


Here are some lines from the book which prove Zusak’s poetry.

“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.” 

“The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy that loves you.” 

“So many humans. So many colours. They keep triggering inside me. They harass my memory. I see them tall in their heaps, all mounted on top of each other. There is air like plastic, a horizon like setting glue. There are skies manufactured by people, punctured and leaking, and there are soft, coal-coloured clouds, beating, like black hearts. And then. There is death. Making his way through all of it. On the surface: unflappable, unwavering. Below: unnerved, untied, and undone.”

“It’s probably fair to say that in all the years of Hitler’s reign, no person was able to serve the Fuhrer as loyally as me. A human doesn’t have a heart like mine. The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both. Still, they have one thing I envy. Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die.”

“I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race – that rarely do I even simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant…I AM HAUNTED BY HUMANS.”


12 Tugon to “The Book Thief”

  1. zezil Says:

    I am not yet finished reading this one. But definitely a good book!

    • Madrama but I enjoyed it very much. Well-written. Overdue na tong review na to. May 2 pang book review na pending.

      • zezil Says:

        Nakita ko nagbasa ka din ng Murakami. Norwegian wood ba yun? Yun ba] yung lesbian thingy? 1 book palang ni Murakami nabasa ko e.pero galing….
        Sa book thief andami kong natutunan na ano…bad word na german.haha.pero okay tong book. lalo na kapag nirerecite ko yung characters. I mean, I assume a different voice each time a diff character speaks. Its fun. And I love the ‘death’ character.

  2. hahaha! Mismo! Naaliw din ako sa mga murang German! Di kita mumurahin ah, pero trip ko lang i-spell yung “Saumensch at Saukerl”! Hehehe.
    Oo! Ginagawa ko rin yun sa isip ko! Aliw na aliw ako pag si Rosa na yung nagsasalita, tipong ambigat nung German accent habang nage-English! Hahaha.Lalo pag nagmumura sya. 🙂
    Ang totoo nyan, antagal na-shelve ni Murakami saken. Di ko pa natatapos at di ko pa rin inaabot yung parteng yan. Ang totoo sa sobrang konti nang nabasa ko wala pang structure yung kwento sa isip ko. hehehe. Tinapos ko muna yung Hunger Games Trilogy saka ko sya binalikan. Chapter 4 pa lang ako.

  3. *ng nabasa pala. na-conscious ako. 🙂

  4. zezil Says:

    Hahaha.natawa naman ako sa correction mo. you already! haha. Honestly, minsan belentong ako sa ng at nang e. Hahaha.Tama yan.Maganda kang ehemplo bilang guro.=)

    • hahaha. Wala lang. Minsan naba-badtrip na rin ako sa sarili ko. Hehe. Sobrang self-monitoring. Tipong auto-correct. Natatawa na nga lang mga bata saken minsan pag kinokorek ko yung sarili ko. Basta ang motto ko, dapat ang ituro lagi yung tama. Simulan natin sa ng at nang. Dagdag mo na rin yung iba’t iba sa halip na iba’t-iba. (naks, ako naman ang paimpres)

      • zezil Says:

        Hahaha.Lupet! Tagalog ka magturo? Tipong, ‘mga bata, ito ang ating takdang aralin…” Ganda pakinggan! Haha.
        Ikaw na talaga.hehehe

      • Kung pwede lang sana eh! Haha. Pero hindi. Kahit sa English. Pag may grammar slips,kinokorek ko sarili before else does. Wala lang. Siguro bukod sa pagiging self-monitoring eh mayabang ren ako at gusto kong ipakita sa kanila na kaya kong ikorek ang sarili ko. Weirdo no?
        Pero nasubukan ko nang magturo ng Filipino, pambasag trip lang. Nahuli ko kasi yung mga estudyante kong nagbabasa ng El Filibusterismo during my time, yun. Nagturo ako ng El Fili. Wala lang. Weirdo lang talaga.

      • zezil Says:

        I think that’s an awesome thing. Living up with the ‘times’ or in your case, with your class having another class. Hehe. Ako naman sakit ko mangorek ng iba.haha/kaya bomerang pag ako nag rong grammar. Ako narin nangunguna sa pag kondena sa sarili ko. I think its a good trair of ours.hehe.keeps us ahem, intellectually healthy. or mental I guess.haha

  5. yun kinulang pa. *before someone else does. hihi

  6. Gawain ko rin yan dati, tipong nagpapanting yung tenga ko pag may narinig akong mali ang grammar. Hanggang sa naisip ko eh isa rin akong ilalampaso pagdating sa Ingglisan, yun tinigil ko. Hehehe. Iwas pahiya.
    Pero oo, nangangako kong di ititigil ang pagkokorek ng sarili ko to keep myself intellectually healthy!

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