Walt's Reviews > The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
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's review
Dec 07, 2013

it was amazing
bookshelves: young-adult
Recommended to Walt by: My Dear Wife
Recommended for: everyone.
Read in March, 2008

Bravo Zusak! A standing ovation, a mighty opus. You stood Death on her head, removing her dark cloak and scythe, clothing her with feeling and letting us see she has eyes to see and a heart to feel, and the intellect to narrate a compelling story. I was so glad to find out she has a womb. Out of Death comes Life. She has greater aplomb than Nick in telling about Gatsby.

In the spring of 1968 at age 19, I made my way to Dachau. I lived just south of Munich and the visit to the defunct concentration camp had a haunting effect upon me that will last until Death comes for me and, I believe, beyond (but eternity’s yet another subject; this story was about life.) I went back to Dachau several times, the souls of the living and the dead calling me. As I worked among Germans in nearby Munich, I was surprised to encounter Jews still, or perhaps again, making their home there, so close to Dachau, so soon after Hitler and his henchmen. These early experiences furnished my life with both angst and vision: with angst to recognize the potential for evil within ever human being and with vision to see the possibility for courage and compassion, to pick up a piece of bread to feed a cipher.

And that’s a big part of what The Book Thief does for me: it captures and again reminds me of these viabilities as they play out near Dachau in the heart of World War II’s Nazi Germany in the lives of Liesel and her contemporaries, alive and dead. Death tells Liesel’s tragic yet wonderful story in order to keep memory alive. In the words of Elie Wiesel, “Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.” And surely this is Liesel’s story not Death’s just as Gatsby's isn’t Nick’s. To remind us to stand up wherever tyranny and power put people down.

Zusak took the time and effort to invest the narrative with near perfect words and wonderful sentences and great paragraphs and superb chapters. It would have been too cruel and ironic if the “book thief” had found herself betrayed by the words, sentences, and paragraphs of her story’s teller. Flesh fully clothes each character; conflict, action, and suspense oblige the attention of each reader; and the themes are true and consistent throughout, start to finish, and the setting is hauntingly perfect. I hope because of this book I am closer to bending over and picking up some bread to give to a cipher, even if it puts us both at Death’s door.

It is a mighty work.
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03/19/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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Alison Wow, I liked this review too. The Book Thief was already on my to read list, but after a review like that it is moving up to the top!

Walt Alison wrote: "Wow, I liked this review too. The Book Thief was already on my to read list, but after a review like that it is moving up to the top!"

Thanks Alison, I hope you love the book like I do.

Angie Thanks for a great review. This is one of my favorite books of all time. It was recommended to my teenage daughter at Duke University Young Writer's Camp. I am so glad she passed along the recommendation. A few months after reading this book for the second (and not the last) time, I too was privileged to visit Dachau. I believe the trip to Dachau was made more meaningful by this book. Thanks for taking the time to write such a great review. I shall be recommending this book to every reader I know of any age.

Angie Hyche

Walt You are very welcome. Seldom does a book inspire me like this one does.

☮Karen What a great, thoughtful, articulate review.

Walt Kdb wrote: "What a great, thoughtful, articulate review."

Thank you.

Peggy Scripter Because of your review I now can't wait to read this book.

Christa Totally agree! I could read this book again and again for its unique style, its humanity, its compassion, its humor.

message 9: by Leonard (new)

Leonard Fernandes Thanks, Walt. I have ordered for this book but your review makes me wish they will hurry with the delivery.

message 10: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Death was male for me, Walt. Interesting juxtaposition, huh?

message 11: by Walt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Walt Perhaps there's good evidence that death is male. For example in the novel, Death narrates about the first day at Auschwitz:

I shiver when I remember— as I try to de-realize it.

I blow warm air into my hands, to heat them up.

But it's hard to keep them warm when the souls still shiver.


I always say that name when I think of it.


Twice, I speak it.

I say His name in a futile attempt to understand. "But it's not your job to understand." That's me who answers. God never says anything. You think you're the only one he never answers? "Your job is to . . ." And
I stop listening to me, because to put it bluntly, I tire me. When I start thinking like that, I become so exhausted, and I don't have the luxury of indulging fatigue. I'm compelled to continue on, because although it's not true for every person on earth, it's true for the vast majority—that death waits for no man—and if he does, he doesn't usually wait very long.

On the other hand, I like believing that women have powers of life and death in eternity over against mortality as much as any God or Death merely characterized as male. And frankly I tire of our traditons of male ascendency.

Thanks for making me think about this some more.

Brittany A beautiful review. Thank you for doing justice to such a profound novel.

message 13: by Walt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Walt Thanks, Brittany. It everlastingly inspires.

message 14: by Janhavi (new) - added it

Janhavi great review,been meaning to read it.Will definitely let you know how it turned out.thanks for writing it.

message 15: by Walt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Walt Thanks for your note, Janhavi, and kindness. And you're welcome. Good reads.

Anthony Marchetta Good review. I think the strongest point of the book is the excellent cast of characters. All of Zusak's characters are brimming with hidden layers. There's nothing one note about any of them; each one is lovingly rendered in pitch-perfect detail. Even the side characters have a depth to their personalities that a lot of books' main characters don't have. I must admit, like Death, I loved Rudy. That scene where she kisses his body...

Powerful, powerful writing. He makes you care, then just rips your heart out. And it's even worse because you knew it was coming. But Death finds us all in the end, huh?

message 17: by Clovergirlpat (new)

Clovergirlpat Gosh, Walt! Now I want to read more things that YOU have written. A fabulous review of a fabulous book!

message 18: by Walt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Walt Clovergirlpat wrote: "Gosh, Walt! Now I want to read more things that YOU have written. A fabulous review of a fabulous book!"

Thanks, ClovergirlPAT.

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