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The Book Thief

Markus Zusak

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions & Essay Topics

full title ·  The Book Thief

author · Markus Zusak

type of work · Novel

genre · Historical novel; coming-of-age novel; Holocaust novel

language · English

time and place written · Sydney, Australia, 2005

date of first publication · 2005

publisher · Picador (Australia), Knopf (U.S.)

narrator ·  The Book Thief is narrated by Death (yes, that Death) the day after the death of the main character, Liesel.

point of view · Death is an omniscient narrator who switches between first person and a closed third person point of view, describing all the main characters’ thoughts and emotions as well as his own. He mostly sticks to the events during the years of World War Two, though occasionally he flashes forward to relay different characters’ fates.

tone · The tone is intimate and conversational, with the narrator at times interrupting himself or interjecting reactions to the narrative. Though his voice employs humor, the overall sense is of sadness.

tense · Past tense with flashbacks and occasional flash forwards.

setting (time) · Primarily World War Two, January 1939 – October 1943

setting (place) · Primarily the fictional German town of Molching, a suburb of Munich

protagonist · Liesel Meminger

major conflict · After losing her family in the lead-up to World War II, Liesel must establish her identity as she helps her foster family hide a Jew from the Nazis and deals with the hardships of war-time Germany.

rising action · Given to foster parents after the death of her brother, Liesel adjusts to life with a new family and friends and begins learning the value of words as Germany moves gradually toward war and her family hides Max, a Jewish man, from Nazi authorities.

climax · Liesel encounters Max being marched to a concentration camp, precipitating a crisis in her in which she questions the value of words.

falling action · Liesel begins writing her own story and then must learn to move on after all her family and friends are killed in a bomb raid.

foreshadowing · Death describes the three times he saw Liesel; Death announces at the beginning of Part Five that Rudy will die in two years; Death saying that Rudy goes from a stealer of bread to a giver of bread; Death suggesting that Zucker’s dislike of Hans will cost him his life; Death hinting that Liesel will be a great writer some day.

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