I never really understood the hype over The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. What can be so appealing about a protagonist who steals books? But, I had not read it then. I had not met Liesel then. Now, after having read and known(to the best of my abilities), I stand corrected.
I have never written a book review before, for no particular reason. After procrastinating for a long time, eventually, I decided to read it this year. It turns out that I have numerous favourites among books and, The Book Thief just outranked all of them. And I felt I should write what I thought of this book. So, dear Readers, if you have not read this yet- be warned- SPOILER ALERT ahead. But be calm, I won’t let out the whole tale.😊
The plot of the Book Thief is set in Molching(late 1930’s), near Munich in Nazi Germany during the 2nd World War. Here, we are introduced to Liesel Meminger and her heartfelt bond with books, her foster family, her neighbourhood and “quite a lot of thievery”. In the fear-filled Nazi times, she is fostered by the Hubermanns- the kind, selfless Hans Hubermann with his accordion and his caring wife Rosa Hubermann with a sharp mouth. As the plot goes deep, we are introduced to the other major characters -Rudy Steiner- her best friend, Max Vanderburg the Jew whom Liesel and her dad hide in the basement, Erik Vanderburg(Max’s father), the mayor’s wife Ilsa Hermann from whom she takes the books, Tommy Mueller with the hearing defect, and many more and then, of course, our narrator Death “with a heart”. The first time she steals, it was pure curiosity that made the nine-year-old take the Gravedigger’s handbook hidden in the snow near her little brother’s burial place. The ‘thievery’ becomes masterful as she steals from the mayor’s library and “rescues” books from Nazi book burnings- amid an unjustifiable war.
One feels a barrage of emotions while going through this book,- emotions that overpower, rip you out and still you empathise.
Narrated by Death himself, we see a busier-than-ever(because of war) Death entrusted with the job of “collecting souls”, shaken by the atrocities and “haunted by humans”. Liesel was one of the humans who piqued his interest during his routine work- one with whose life he was quite impressed and empathetic.
Kudos to the author Markus Zusak for his brilliant story-telling. It is as if one feels the deadly blow of the war, the physical pain, the utter helplessness, endless suffering and yet there is something in the narrative that makes a reader connect with the characters- a resilience, a sort of acceptance of the finality of life or just survival. The narrative bears mixed tones of humour, poetry, satire, philosophy and the inevitable death.
Despite the terrible fear we feel towards the general concept of Death, the author has identified a new facet to Death- the humane one. One stops to ponder when Death says, “It kills me sometimes, how people die”. And I wonder, how much more human can one become?
In short, I’d say this is an amazingly written, heart-wrenching tale of abandonment and true relationships, loss and guilt, survival and surprisingly, hope; with elements of history resounding its glaring truth throughout the characters’ journey.
To conclude, kindly know that this is just my perspective- my exact raw thoughts as I finished the book and I didn’t want to forget it. There’s more to The Book Thief than what I have penned down. If one were to adopt a refined literary approach, I am certain that a treasure awaits you. A better tale or more astute way of writing may come my way but, till then, The Book Thief- you’ve my heart❤❤❤