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.
Title: The Book Thief
Author: Mark Zusak
Publisher: Black Swan
“A small fact:
You are going to die….does this worry you?”
I read The Book Thief when I was a teenager but have completely forgotten the plot since. Once I realised the film was coming out I was determined to read it before I watched it. Naturally, the film release came and went and I neither read the book nor watched the film, until now.
I finally managed to start reading a few days ago and promised I’d get through 100 pages a day so that I’d be done with it in a week. Last night I read over 350 pages and finished the book at 2am. I was also crying. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t sob or anything, but the tears started and wouldn’t stop. It was only after I threw the book on the floor, kicked it, and demanded a hug from my housemate that I managed to stop the tears.
The protagonist, Death, told me what was going to happen in the first few chapters. He … I’m not 100% sure if death is male, but it feels right to use … repeatedly warned me of the ending. But once I got there, the simple sorrow of it all got to me and I couldn’t help it. I kept asking myself how I managed to read this as a teenager and not cry!
“People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it’s quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors…”
In my opinion, what makes The Book Thief such a great novel is not the plot (let’s face it, we’ve heard countless WW2 stories before); it’s not the fact that Death narrates the book. It’s the honest and simple way in which Zusak depicts the characters humanity. The Book Thief doesn’t try to be harrowing nor does it attempt to portray the goodness of humanity in the worst situations. It shows us as we are, nothing more, nothing less.
“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.”
This is a story about a girl who discovers the power of words; how she uses them to get through the mess that is life, and how they affect people, even Death.
Even though I threw The Book Thief on the floor and kicked it, it will still get 5 stars from me. It’s the second book in over 2 years that has actually made me cry (the first being Song of Achilles) and I will keep it on my shelf for all time.
“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”