Author: Markus Zusak
Publication Date: January 1st 2005
Length: 592 pages (Hardcover)
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Nine-year-old Liesel lives with her foster family on Himmel Street during the dark days of the Third Reich. Her Communist parents have been transported to a concentration camp, and during the funeral for her brother, she manages to steal a macabre book: it is, in fact, a gravediggers’ instruction manual. This is the first of many books which will pass through her hands as the carnage of the Second World War begins to hungrily claim lives. Both Liesel and her fellow inhabitants of Himmel Street will find themselves changed by both words on the printed page and the horrendous events happening around them.
From time to time, as I sit myself down to write a particularly hard review, I often wonder…
How can I put into words, how this book made me feel?
How do I even feel about it?
Is it even possible to find the “right” words?
These are the things I ask myself this very moment, and I guess that all I can really do is try. So that’s what I will do now. I will try to explain why this book is special to me, and as always, I guess it’s best to just start from the beginning…
My very first encounter with The Book Thief, occurred about two years ago, more or less. It was when my dear friend bought it on a sale, and decided to give it a try. Sadly, she neither liked, nor finished it, which was good enough for me. The second she stopped reading, my subconscious had already decided that it was not a book for me.
Luckily, my defenses had already begun to falter (they tend to do that when you’re faced with raving reviews on a regular basis), when I stumbled across the movie trailer last week. This trailer, let me tell you, managed to smash the remaining walls completely, and intrigued me so much, that The Book Thief jumped straight to the first slot on my to-do list. Suddenly, I NEEDED to read it, and the very next day, I hurried straight to the library, and snatched it from its shelf.
Now, before I move on to the point were I actually talk about why I adored this book, I must tell you that I very much knew that The Book Thief would rip my heart out. I knew it and read it anyway. Why? Well, I don’t think I had an answer for that as I set my eyes on it there in the library (maybe I’m a masochist?), but now, it’s really simple…
To me, this is a story worth telling. It’s a story worth being told. It’s a story worth my tears.
Personally, I’ve always been very interested in WW2. No, interested isn’t the right word exactly. It’s more like this; I want to read and learn about it as much as I can, because it’s important. In my mind, if I can’t face the truth of this horrible period in our history, how can I possibly help prevent it ever happening again? I need to imagine it, I need to cry about it, and I need to never ever forget about it.
And that’s that.
Now, let’s talk about this book. This brilliant book.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to read a story narrated by Death, wonder no longer. I can now happily tell you….that it’s glorious. From what I understand, the writing style was the thing my friend didn’t enjoy while reading this book, but to me, it’s what made it so very unique and special. Death is such an interesting aspect of our world, and Zusak’s version was really engaging. All Death’s “small but noteworthy” notes, and remarks…well, they sure caught my attention. His comments were sometimes funny, and sometimes incredibly dark, but they portrayed life and death in a way I had never really thought about before. It was almost poetic, and I loved it.
“I’ve seen so many young men
over the years who think they’re
running at other young men.
They’re running at me.”
Since Death is the one telling the story, and Death knows a lot of things, The Book Thief has its fair share of jumps in time. There are also many mentions of things that won’t be explained until much later, so to say the least, there’s a lot to keep track on. I, at least, needed to concentrate quite a lot, but it wasn’t that hard since I was sucked in completely from the start. Even as I put the book down from time to time (pfft…school, you know), I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
As you know, no individual is like the other. The way we react in certain situations, and the way we deal with suffering, both our own and others’, all depends on who we are. Some experience shame, guilt, or fear, while others do not. Some speak up, and some stay silent. It’s just the way it is, and I think Zusak did a very good job creating realistic characters, with believable reactions. While reading, it didn’t feel like I was watching made up people. They felt real.
“When death captures me”, the boy vowed, “he will feel my fist on his face.”
What I think is the most important thing to have in mind while reading The Book Thief, or any other book about the Holocaust for that matter, is the impact that can be made by words alone. Words can be beautiful and wonderful, but they can also make people do horrible things. They are powerful weapons, and should therefore always be handled with great caution, or, in the worst case, it can all go terribly wrong.
“I carried them in my fingers, like suitcases. Or I’d throw them over my shoulder. It was only the children I carried in my arms.”
Markus Zusak really has his way with words, and knows exactly where to hit to make the greatest impact. Unlike me, I don’t think he has any problem putting his thoughts into words, and someday, I hope to have mastered this art as well as he has.
In conclusion, all I have to say is that this is an amazing book, and it’s a book you hate and love at the same time. It is powerful, brilliant, engaging, and important, but I still don’t think it’s for everyone. I wish I could say it was, but not everybody will appreciate the beauty and the ugliness of this story. It is a very sad book, after all, and though it has its happy moments, it won’t leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling, that much I can tell you. So if that’s what you want, I would suggest you to stay away. At least until you are ready.
If I would have picked up this book when my friend did, for example, I’m not sure I would have liked it. Now, on the other hand, I loved it.
Some Favourite Quotes:
“…I’m always finding humans at their best and their worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.”
“It kills me sometimes, how people die.”
“I guess I’m better at leaving things behind than stealing them.”
“Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness.”
“Even death has a heart.”