- Author: Markus Zusak | Paperback : 608 pages | ISBN-13 : 978-0375842207
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become 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.
This is a book which broke and mended my heart at the same time at every page. It is a book for people who love reading and love characters. You can’t read it if you like happy endings. It is full of emotions and details.
Narrated by Death, The Book Thief is the story of Liesel Meminger , a nine-year-old German girl who given up by her mother to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann in the small town of Molching in 1939, shortly before World War II. On their way to Molching, Liesel’s younger brother Werner dies, and she is traumatized, experiencing nightmares about him for months. Hans is a gentle man who brings her comfort and helps her learn to read, starting with a book Liesel took from the cemetery where her brother was buried. Liesel befriends a neighborhood boy, Rudy Steiner, who falls in love with her. At a book burning, Liesel realizes that her father was persecuted for being a Communist, and that her mother was likely killed by the Nazis for the same crime. She is seen stealing a book from the burning by the mayor’s wife Ilsa Hermann , who later invites Liesel to read in her library.
I admit it made me worry, cry, smile and laugh at the same time but it also taught me many things. Liesel and Rudy’s friendship opened my eyes as to why today’s relationship don’t last: because we fake it and we are not open to each other. It also made me ask myself, why do we (humans) cause so much evil? Why do we love? Why do we hate?
This book is a real treasure. It talks about the power of words and language and what I liked most is how Markus Zusak showed it in his musical, poetic, lyrical and profound way of writing.
Though the book thief is a sad story, a lot of things save it from being a depressing one. The richness of the hearts of characters and lively humor in the pages always lifted me up. I have read few books about holocaust but what makes this one different, which I didn’t know, is that ordinary germans-even those with blond hair and blue eyes-were as much at risk of losing their lives, of being persecuted, as the jews themselves.
My favorite quotes from the book:
I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.
She leaned down and looked at his lifeless face and Leisel kissed her best friend, Rudy Steiner, soft and true on his lips. He tasted dusty and sweet. He tasted like regret in the shadows of trees and in the glow of the anarchist’s suit collection. She kissed him long and soft, and when she pulled herself away, she touched his mouth with her fingers…She did not say goodbye. She was incapable, and after a few more minutes at his side, she was able to tear herself from the ground. It amazes me what humans can do, even when streams are flowing down their faces and they stagger on…
Usually we walk around constantly believing ourselves. “I’m okay” we say. “I’m alright”. But sometimes the truth arrives on you and you can’t get it off. That’s when you realize that sometimes it isn’t even an answer–it’s a question. Even now, I wonder how much of my life is convinced.
A DEFINITION NOT FOUND
IN THE DICTIONARY
Not leaving: an act of trust and love,
often deciphered by children