Friday Fiction #12

This week Jade takes a look at a rather wonderful little book by Australian author Markus Zusak.

The Book Thief
Marcus Zusak

To be a child in Nazi Germany is extremely difficult, to be a child alone in Nazi Germany is almost impossible.

Liesel Meminger is 9 years old, has lost her family and finds herself being fostered by the Hubermanns. Her new life is beset by the horrors going on all around her as she tries to find a balance and normality, allowing her to keep going.

The characters in this book are rich and interesting; from the warm strength of her foster father, and the quick temper of his wife, her neighbour Rudy’s charm and Liesel’s own thirst for comfort in the pages of books… any books she can get her hands on. These characters are intriguing and engaging; lending a deep texture to the plot.

The narrator, Death himself, adds a unique perspective to the narrative, filling in details about the characters and their back stories. Death is fed up and in need of a holiday, but there is not one to fill in, he is haunted by humans and finds himself drawn to human fragility, the brilliance and the destruction that they display.

When the narrator is death, the tone of a book is pretty much set.  However, this book explores plenty of other themes: morality, language, the written word, and the staple of many a book… love. Despite the dark setting, the over-shadowing cloud of oppression and fear, the book retains a warmth that could very easily have been missing.

With the backdrop of book burning it is easy to understand Liesel’s hunger to rescue books from the flames.

This book transcends its war setting, highlighting the importance of knowledge and learning which has so often been withheld through dictatorship or poverty.

Zusak has elegantly crafted a story about ordinary people in extraordinary times; it is heart-breaking yet funny, foreboding yet fun. The language is thick, wonderfully descriptive and at times very poetic. The Book Thief is thickly emotional and due to the subject matter not necessarily the easiest read, however, it is worth the discomfort to discover the beauty buried in the despair.

Jade Hunter
Library & Digital Assistant

Publisher’s blurb:


1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.


It’s a small story, about:

a girl
an accordionist
some fanatical Germans
a Jewish fist fighter
and quite a lot of thievery.