Laura's Reviews > The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
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Apr 09, 14

bookshelves: momsreading
Read in March, 2014

If you're going to write a book about the power of words, you need to be able to write powerful words.

This was the thought that kept going through my head as I read through The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This book had been on my to-read list for a very long time - years actually - and I cannot believe that I waited this long to experience it. It was quite simply breathtaking.

The Book Thief is about a German girl named Liesel living in Nazi Germany. Death has become a real character in her own story and in the stories of everyone around her. So much has been stolen from her. Her mother. Her brother. And so, she does the only thing that makes sense. She steals back. The steals books. Young, illiterate, scared and lonely Liesel steals her first book.

As the war progresses nearby, Liesel goes about her childhood. She learns to read as a coping mechanism. She reads to connect. She reads to stop the nightmares. She reads to fit in. She reads to remember. As one stolen book becomes more, she realizes that the words hold power. It doesn't matter if the book is a story or an instruction booklet or a dictionary. She grasps onto the words and refuses to let go.

As a lover of literature and writing, The Book Thief was profoundly powerful for me. Without a doubt, the story gripped me. Without any analysis at all, I could say it is undoubtedly one of the best stories I have ever read. The characters are real and endearing and Markus Zusak made my heart soar and fall. It was everything I want a story to be. But the story wasn't what stopped my breath with each page turn. No, it was Zusak's ability to show me the power in language. I wanted to stop and soak in passages time and time again. And sometimes, I wouldn't want to stop, but I would, because I was so horrified by how much I was falling in love with words that were describing something so horrific. Words are tricky like that. That's the point.

Like Death, Hitler becomes a recurring character in the stories of some of the primary characters, even though the reader doesn't even meet him. For a Jew hidden in a basement, Hitler becomes a recurring sparring partner that comes to battle daily. For Liesel, a member of Hitler Youth, Hitler is a powerful man worthy of her hatred. She rightly recognizes that Hitler is who he is and has done what he has done because of the words he has used.

So often we recognize evil forces as strength or power or an arsenal of modern weaponry. What we sometimes fail to notice is how language is twisted and sculpted and put together to lead us all towards evil. That words can be used to misdirect and lie and cheat can be discouraging, but it is also encouraging. You see, language is widely available. By recognizing our ownership of words, we can find power in them ourselves, just as Liesel did. And this power can be used for change. It can be used for good.

I implore you to read The Book Thief if you haven't already. Let this book sweep you along in the story, change your view of the world, and help you recognize the power of your words. This book is beautiful and awful and beautiful again. It begs to be read and held tightly to, just as Liesel held on tightly to her books.
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Reading Progress

04/09 marked as: read

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