The Book Thief Summary

‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak, follows Liesel Meminger as she comes of age during World War II in Nazi Germany.

The story in the book was recounted by a male voice called Death, who proved to be caring yet morose throughout the book. The storyline follows the character Liesel Meminger as she comes of age during World War II in Nazi Germany.

Liesel went to the home of her new foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, distraught and withdrawn after her brother’s death. Her younger brother died on a train to Himmel Street in Molching, Germany, on the outskirts of Munich. While there, she meets a boy named Rudy Steiner in a football match while living in her new home. Anytime she wins, her friend Rudy will throw a snowball smack in Liesel’s face. Liesel settled into her new home quite well, and before long, she got exposed to the horrors of the Nazi regime. 

The Book Thief Summary


‘Spoiler-free’ Summary

The story in the book was told by a male voice who is the narrator, called Death. The Book Thief starts with a lot of lyrics and some dry humor with a little bit of magic and mystery. This immediately draws you in as you start to read. You will also notice some imagery and colors with the words, as well as some sections of sentences that set off events. All these come together to give you that clear-cut voice of loneliness that really locks the reader in. When you now hear that death is the narrator of the story, you prepare for an enticing read.

Death proved himself to be caring even gloomy throughout the book. The storyline follows Liesel Meminger as she comes of age during World War II in Nazi Germany. Liesel went to the home of her new foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, distraught and withdrawn after her brother’s death. Her younger brother died on a train to Himmel Street in Molching, Germany, on the outskirts of Munich. While there, she meets a boy named Rudy Steiner in a football match while living in her new home.

Anytime she wins, her friend Rudy will throw a snowball smack in Liesel’s face. Liesel settled into her new home quite well, and before long, she got exposed to the horrors of the Nazi regime. 

The Book Thief Plot Summary

Spoiler alert: important details of the novel are revealed below.

The story in the book was recounted by a male voice called Death, who proved to be caring yet morose throughout the book.

The storyline follows Liesel Meminger as she comes of age during World War II in Nazi Germany. Liesel went to the home of her new foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, distraught and withdrawn after her brother’s death. Her younger brother died on a train to Himmel Street in Molching, Germany, on the outskirts of Munich. While there, she meets a boy named Rudy Steiner in a football match while living in her new home. Anytime she wins, her friend Rudy will throw a snowball smack in Liesel’s face. Liesel settled into her new home quite well, and before long, she got exposed to the horrors of the Nazi regime. 

With the decline in the German political situation in Germany, Jews were being killed more often, and her foster parents hid a Jewish man named Max Vandenburg. Her foster father, Hans, also taught her to read and write. Because he has developed a close relationship with her, he taught her how to read in her bedroom and later in her basement.

When she realizes the power of reading and writing and learns how to share the written word, Liesel starts stealing books that the Nazi party wants to destroy and also writes her own story. She also started sharing the power of reading and writing with her friend, Max. By going to the mayor’s house to collect laundry for her foster mother, she starts a friendship with the mayor’s wife, Ilsa Hermann, who now allows her first to read books in her library and later allows her to steal them.

One of the novel’s highlights is when Hans offered bread to a weak Jew who was among a group of Jewish prisoners led through town to the Dachau Concentration Camp. This action drew the anger of others in the town and made Max leave the Hubermanns’ home soon after because he feared the repercussions that Hans’s act would attract suspicion on their household. As punishment for this act, Hans’s application to join the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, which has been withheld for a long time, is now approved, and he is drafted into the army as punishment for this act.

However, his job consists of cleaning up the aftermath of bombings on the German home front. Much later, Liesel sees Max among a group of prisoners and joins him in the march. She did this despite a soldier’s order to step away, so she was whipped as punishment.

After some time, Hans returns home; bombs are thrown on Liesel’s street in Molching, killing her friends, family, and neighbors. Liesel is the sole survivor because she was working on her manuscript in the basement during the raid. The workers who were searching for survivors and also cleaning up the scene take Liesel’s manuscript along with the rubble, but Death, the narrator, saves it. Liesel is harbored by the mayor, and his wife, Ilsa Hermann as she was devised. She refuses to clean off the ashes on herself until she walks into the river where her friend Rudy saved a book before saying her final goodbyes.

After the war in 1945, Liesel works in the tailor shop owned by Rudy’s father when Max comes, and they enjoy an emotional reunion.

Many years later, which Death refers to as “just yesterday,” Liesel dies as an old woman in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia, among her family and many friends. Yet, she never forgot Hans, Rudy, Rosa, and her brother. When Death gets her soul, he gives her the manuscript she lost in the bombing in her old town. She asks Death if he reads and understands it. Death answers that he has read but is unable to understand the duality of humanity. 

FAQs

Why did Liesel’s mother leave her?

Liesel’s mother was a sick, destitute woman who was described as constantly sick in the book. She did not have enough money to take care of her children and her son, Liesel’s brother, died from a combination of starvation and sickness. Liesel’s mom thought someone else could properly care and educate her children and she left her for her foster parents to take care of her.

Is The Book Thief a true story?

The Book Thief is a historical fiction. This means that while it is a fiction of Markus Zusak, it is based on true events that happened at a certain time in the past. This book was based on the events that occurred in Germany during the period of 1939-1945 when there was world war 2.

Was The Book Thief turned into a movie?

Yes, The Book Thief was turned into a war drama movie that was released in the USA on 27 November 2013. The screenplay was written by Michael Petroni and stars Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, and others. It was directed by Brian Percival and received mixed reviews from viewers.

Is The Book Thief depressing?

The Book Thief is a sad book when you follow the story of the orphan girl, Liesel Meminger. It is one of the best mind-broadening, soul-searching, and deep books that you will ever read. If you like to read about wars, history, Holocaust, or even read about philosophical books, then this is a perfect book for you.

Is The Book Thief for adults?

The Book Thief is categorized as a young adult novel but that does not mean that adults cannot read. The book is great reading material for both young and old. Though it will appeal more to teenagers because of the protagonist, Liesel Meminger. Some people might even argue that a book so difficult and sad shouldn’t be for teens but that makes it more interesting for everyone.

About Ugo Juliet
Ugo Juliet is a passionate lover of books. For over 10 years, she has written books and articles for various organizations. She continues with her passion for literature as an expert analyst on Book Analysis.

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