The Book Thief
6 January 2013 2 Comments
Author: Markus Zusak.
Summary: Here is a small fact: You are going to die.
1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.
Some important information: This novel is narrated by Death.
It’s a small story, about: a girl • an accordionist • some fanatical Germans • a Jewish fist fighter • and quite a lot of thievery.
Another thing you should know: Death will visit The Book Thief three times.
Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5
Review: “Some important information: This novel is narrated by Death.” This line was the one that grabbed me, and made me want to read this book. And really, for me, the fact that the narrator is Death is what makes the book. He has the unique advantage of knowing what’s going on in far more depth and breadth than the characters could know. The fact that wherever he is, wherever he goes, he always sees humans in their last moments gives him an unparalleled point of view. As Death himself puts it:
“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.”
Death is a step apart from the lives of the people this book is about, but in another way he is closer to each of them than they are to each other. This unique vantage offers an incredibly told story.
Also, Death is a tease. He outright states at various points what will and will not happen; who will and will not die. Then he admits he’s getting ahead of himself and slows right down. It’s infuriating, infectious and makes the book almost impossible to put down. You might know what’s coming, but you’re desperate to see how they get there.
“Of course, I’m being rude. I’m spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it. I have given you two events in advance, because I don’t have much interest in building mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It’s the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound me. There are many things to think of. There is much story.”
The story itself is about The Book Thief, Liesel. She steals books to read, escape and, perhaps most importantly, regain some semblance of control in her life, which is constantly changing around her. During her adolescent years in which the story is set, we see her make friends and loyalties, enemies and vendettas. We see her share secrets with the Jew hiding in her basement and strike up an acquaintance with a woman who has swastikas on her slippers. We see her ups and her downs, and those of the people around her. And then we see it all ripped away.
The characters are wonderful. They are true, and flawed and, each in their own way, perfect. I am so used to simply loving or hating characters completely, that it was really nice to like and dislike something about them all. They frustrated me, they delighted me. They disgusted me, they made me proud. Their motivations were clear and honest, if sometimes questionable. Fictional though they may be, i was made to care about them. I mourned each and every single one.
The amount of times this book ripped my heart out, stomped on it a little and then gently picked it up and carefully placed it back into my chest is unbelievable. Yes, i cried. (And if you don’t cry at books filled with words, characters and situations that are constructed to toy with your emotions, then please don’t read this book—it will be wasted on you.) I cried, but i also smiled and laughed and gasped and winced. And it was all worth it. I can’t say this book has a happy ending, but it certainly doesn’t have a hopeless one.
“I have to say that although it broke my heart, I was, and still am, glad I was there.”