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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Book Thief - Book and Movie Review

I rarely have time to go to the movies, so when I do I make sure it’s something I really want to watch.

Dim the lights and 5-stars for – The Book Thief.

I hated the book and what I mean by that is I loved it.
So I had to see the movie.
And then I had to see it again!

Reading The Book Thief, you quickly learn the narrator is death.  Yes, the spirit of death.  It’s awful.  I hated it, but I was already hooked. 

Author Markus Zusak said this about his choice of narrator:

Then I stumbled upon the idea of Death narrating the story, and it all made sense. Who is constantly hanging around in times of war? Who would have the opportunity to pick up a story penned by a girl in a bombed German city? Death was the right answer, although there were still a few decisions to be made.

When I first brought Death into the story, he was sinister. He enjoyed his work a little too much. For months I wrote in this way and again I was falling short in some aspect I couldn’t understand. When I took a break from the book, I was sitting down on the back step and it hit me that Death should actually be afraid...of us.
The irony of this was exciting, and it made perfect sense. Death is on hand to see the greatest crimes and miseries of human life, and I thought, What if he tells this story as a way of proving to himself that humans are actually worthwhile?

Mr. Zusak’s writing was so impeccably beautiful, at times I forgot where I was.  Who was this writer and how many years had he secluded himself in an isolated cave to be able to produce such fine literature.  Really, it was mind-blowing and then to find out his a young man, not a retired internationally-studied German professor who wrote the novel made me fall down.

Second, the book is about one of the darkest points in human history when Hitler reined and 6 million plus Jews were massacred.  I have to be careful when I open my heart to anything heartbreaking including history and literature.  I have to prepare myself to feel the pain.  When I feel pain, I cry and have a difficult time functioning in life.  Reading The Book Thief put me in a world where I was going to lose it if I didn’t have an ice cream cone covered in rainbow sprinkles stat!

But as difficult as it was, I did get through The Book Thief  half horrified and half elated?  How did Mr. Zusak juggle so many acts of literature without them all crashing down?  If I knew, I too would be a New York Times best-selling author, but that’s the beauty of a well-written book.  Writing is the most spontaneous and meticulously planned act and when well done, it turns out like The Book Thief.

So, how did I feel about the movie?

(It’s difficult to type in a moment of silence, but that’s what the above space was).

I was mesmerized, completely.  I sat on the edge of my seat and didn’t move.  The counselor joined me on the movie date and I’d forgotten he was sitting right next to me.  The music, narration and especially the beauty of Liesel was so well done, I didn’t want to leave.  I know it strange to want to jump back into a world of war, terror and loneliness, but there was so much more to The Book Thief.  There was growth, strength and words – beautiful words.  The love of books and ideas, the simple act of licking snow, writing the first word on a blank page or humming a melody of a song your mother used to sing you – these experiences were all magnified.  They were the experiences that allowed Liesel to feel. 

And lastly, the love of Liesel’s foster father Hans was just what I needed.  In too many forms of entertainment we have horrible male figures who hurt and destroy.  I kept waiting for Hans to blow it, to fall apart and abuse or threaten, but all he did was love . . . perfectly.  To hear Liesel say “Papa,” that alone brought me to tears.

I took my older boys Chandler and Payson to see it next.  There reaction was not quite as intense as mine, but they did appreciate the story of a simple girl and how she survived war.  Chandler has been studying WWII this year in school, so different parts of history in the film awakened his conscious. 

Hats off to you, Mr. Zusak for you are truly a gifted writer.  Even though I wrote this blog post, I really am speechless. 
To read more about The  Book Thief click here.
An interview with Markus Zusak.
The Book Thief movie trailer.


  1. Oh I loved them both too. I cried in both and whenever someone mentions them I say you have to read it- it was so good, so real, so sad, I don't know, just read it. Great writers are truly amazing!

  2. this book is one that I deem worthy of being in my collection-most things I just get from the library. the movie was amazing, too. you know, my mom just told me they took a survey of the surrounding colleges-penn, Drexel-really respected and well known schools, and they found that many students had no idea what the holocaust was. insane, I can't imagine that. thank goodness there are movies and books like this.