Book Cover
The Book Thief


★ ★

TL;DR: A German foster child named Liesel Meminger is The Book Thief. The story of her experience during the war.

Response

Maybe I’m just numbing to all of these WWII novels but I couldn’t muster up as much relation to these characters as the ones in The Nightingale and Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Plot

  • Death is the narrator
  • Liesel Meminger is going to live with a foster family, the Hubermanns
  • Liesel’s brother dies on the trip to Molching
  • She settles into her new life with her foster father Hans (kind and gentle) and foster mother Rosa (potty-mouth but sweet at heart). Becomes friends with a kid named Rudy down the street
  • Hans teaches Liesel to read. Liesel stole one book on her way to Molching, finds others as time goes along
  • Rosa does laundry for the rich people in town. As war hits, everyone is negatively affected and she loses business
  • The mayor’s wife, Frau Herrmann, is friendly to Liesel and allows her to use the library
  • A Jew named Max hides in the Hubermann basement
    • Max’s dad saved Hans’s life once, and Hans feels like he owes it to him to protect him
  • Liesel and Max become friends. Bond over books.
    • The whole family has to work together to keep the secret. War rages.
  • Nazis begin parading Jews through Molching as part of publicity efforts. Hans tries to help one of the Jews, and gets whipped by Nazis. The house is no longer safe, so Max must leave. Irony is that they never come check the house
  • Hans gets sent to war. Rudy’s dad also gets sent to war for not allowing the Nazis to take Rudy.
  • Hans gets injured and gets sent home to recover
  • Liesel anxiously thinks about whether or not Max got captured. In one parade through Molching, she sees him :(. She ends up telling Rudy about Max
  • One night, while Liesel is in the basement editing her book, her neighborhood is bombed. Hans, Rosa, Rudy, and the rest of the neighbors are killed. When rescue workers pull Liesel out of the rubble, she finds Rudy’s corpse and gives him the kiss he always wanted. When the workers take her away, she leaves behind her finished book, called “The Book Thief.” Death, who has been watching, rescues the book. Liesel goes to live with the mayor and his wife. After the liberation of the concentration camps, Max returns to Molching and finds Liesel. They hug and cry together. Liesel eventually grows up and moves to Australia, where she has a family and lives to an old age. When Death finally comes to take her soul, he shows her the book she wrote so many years before.

Characters

  • Liesel Meminger: main character, the book thief
  • Death: narrator of the story
  • Hans Hubermann: Liesel’s foster father. They are very close. He is kindhearted and does not agree with the Nazis
  • Rosa Hubermann: Liesel’s foster mother. She is tough on the outside but kind on the inside.
  • Max Vandenburg: Jew who hides in the Hubermannbasement for an extended time during the war
  • Rudy Steiner: Liesel’s best friend. Wants to be like Jesse Owens. Loves Liesel
  • Frau Hermann: Mayor’s wife. Has been silent since her son died. Allows Liesel to peruse her library.

Themes

  • war
  • coming-of-age
  • secrets
  • literature
  • duality of Nazi Germany (the good and the bad)

Snippets

(Referring to Hans) Trust was accumulated quickly, due primarily to the brute strength of the man's gentleness, his _thereness_ (L484)

Once, words had rendered Liesel useless, but now, when she sat on the floor, with the mayor’s wife at her husband’s desk, she felt an innate sense of power. It happened every time she deciphered a new word or pieced together a sentence. (L1908)

Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day. That was the business of hiding a Jew. (L2569)

There were the erased pages of Mein Kampf, gagging, suffocating under the paint as they turned. (L2757) [tiger: symbolic. bad words suffocating.]

Where Hans Hubermann and Erik Vandenburg were ultimately united by music, Max and Liesel were held together by the quiet gathering of words. (L2847)

When the war was over and Hitler had delivered himself to my arms, Alex Steiner resumed work in his tailor shop. There was no money in it, but he busied himself there for a few hours each day, and Liesel often accompanied him. They spent many days together, often walking to Dachau after its liberation, only to be denied by the Americans. (L6282)