Gen Y book review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This week author Markus Zusak addressed 400 fans at the Highland Park Literary Festival and recalled that his very first reading of one of his works at a library near his home in Australia was attended by... nobody.  “But the librarian still made me read from my book – just to her.” She may have realised Zusak would be thankful for the practice in the future - now that he is in demand globally. Starting as a writer for young adults The Book Thief has charmed readers of all ages. But what does a typical Gen Y reader from Zusak's hometown think of the highly acclaimed novel? Let's see...                                                               Click cover to buy>>

Why am I reading The Book Thief?

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a good novel.

1. It is situated in history. The majority of the book is set between 1939 and 1942 in Nazi Germany. The fictional town of Molching just outside the city of Munich has in it a Himmel Street, where such despair and love and humanity can be found. All this in the midst of a World War that is a machine in motion beyond the control and comprehension of these average Germans we are reading about. The Book Thief is incredibly written, such that the essence of what it is to be a powerless individual trapped in such machinations is a profound visceral experience for readers.

2. It is narrated by death. I've never been so impressed by the choice and execution of perspective in a novel. It is quite simply unstoppably interesting. As you might imagine, given the historical context, death himself is quite busy. And as narrator, it tells you that. Zusak makes death himself a relatable character. Unstoppably interesting.

Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, bestsellers, Australian book, book review
3. The characters taste real. I mean real world real, experiencing the real of 70 years ago. These soft-hearted good Germans; they're free compared to the Jews, but they're still trapped. The young Jewish German they are harbouring is tormented, learning what it means to have an identity less than human imposed upon him. Death is quite good at articulating the experiences of these characters, and his insights read fresh.

4. It reads easy.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Picador, Australia; Knopf, USA. First published March 14, 2006. More than 2.5 million copies have sold in the US alone.
- Josiah Hallett


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