- “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
- ISBN: 0375842209 / ISBN13: 9780375842207
- Number of Pages: 567
- Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (Readers Guide Edition)
- Publication Date: 18 September 2007 (first published 2005)
- Source: Own copy, purchased at an Instagram shop
- Date Read: 26 April 2014
- Rating: 5 Stars
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.
By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.
The consequence of this is that I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.
I might have started to love historical fiction set during WW2 the year before I read this, but it wasn’t the reason why I purchased this book. At that time, book sellers on Instagram sold copies of this book at a very decent price, and the hype about the book was the main reason why I took interest.
Anyway, this book was my top favorite book for 2014. This is one hauntingly beautiful book, something I want to recommend to all of you who are reading this, but I also want to warn you, this isn’t an easy book to read. It is very interesting, yes… but not a fast read. This book requires your time and attention, and if you’re the type of a reader who somehow skims parts of book, I am afraid you might end up not liking this, because the beauty of this book is not only in the events following one after another, but also the things in between – the words, the characters, and the symbolism. Fret not, should you give this book your time and attention, I guarantee you will be rewarded. This is actually one of the most beautiful, well-crafted book I have ever read, and I am grateful that I gave this book a chance.
Typically, stories about the Nazi-German period focused on the Jew’s struggles – how they were uprooted from their homes, stripped down of their dignity, and sent to concentration camps. This book, though talked about such reality, didn’t really focus on that, but focused on something else – family and friendship. At the heart of the story is a young girl called Liesel Meminger, who was adopted by a German couple. I have very high respect to her foster parents. From the get go, I fell in love with her father’s character Hans, but the biggest surprise has got to be her mother, Rosa. Their family of four (the fourth member is up for you to uncover, though if you read the synopsis above, you will already know who it would be) wasn’t perfect… but is the kind of family I would like to belong to.
Those who have read the book would rave about Rudy and Max’s characters – two of Liesel’s friends. I do love them, too, but I would also like to take note of the mayor’s wife, whom Liesel formed an unconventional form of friendship. This is where the beautiful contrasts show – how life was between people of the same social status, how life was between the German and the Jews (both bad and good), and how life was between the upper class and the lower class.
Any review for this book would tell you that this book was told from the Death’s (or the Grim Reaper’s) perspective. He was a very effective story teller, that even if he spoiled certain things (through the use of chapter titles), it was still something to look forward to. His voice was scary, but not really morbid; in fact, it was funny to realize Death has a sense of humor. He described the scenes and locations vividly, and towards the end, Death not only had a sense of humor, I also realized that he also had a heart.
I am in awe of how Markus Zusak presented this book. The story was gripping, heartbreaking and heartwarming, and the writing was phenomenal.
There were also snippets of artwork inside the pages, but I chose to share this particular one because it represented something symbolic. If you can see, there were traces of washed down words in the image – erasing something to give way to something new. Of all the artworks in this book, this was my favorite.
Truly, this book is all about how humans relate to one another, but this is still a war story. The only difference was that, this book presented the fact that the war is a double-edged sword, that the Germans may be at an advantage over the Jews, but lots of Germans also struggled during that time. It also presented the fact that not all Germans were ruthless and heartless. Quoting a line from the book, “In years to come, he would be a giver of bread, not a stealer – proof again of the contradictory human being. So much good, so much evil. Just add water.”
I won’t go and push you to read this book, but I truly hope you do. You will cry, but you will also understand the ironies of humanity. I also hope this will make your favorite books list, too.