Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

“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.” 

The Book Thief is one of those books that has sat on my shelf for years, I kept meaning to pick it up and read it but I always found a reason not to (the reason always being another book). Everyone I know who had read it absolutely loved it and I suppose a part of me didn't want to be let down and another bigger part of me really dislikes reading books about wars, I've read a few of them and while I did enjoy them the subject matter always saddens me and so I have always tried to avoid it.

Not knowing much about the book accept it was set in Germany during World War Two, I was pleasantly surprised. The book thief is narrated by death and tells the story of a young girl named Liesel who he becomes fascinated with, Liesel is adopted by the Hubermanns after her mother can no longer look after her. The beginning of the book follows death's first meeting with Liesel after her brother has died in her arms on the way to her foster home and  he watches her steal her first book, The Gravediggers Handbook'. This book is the start of Liesel's life on Himmel street with the Hubermanns, its the book that she learns to read from and the book that creates the connection between her and her stepfather Hans. This book tells the story of one family, their lives during a horrific time, it tells the pain and horror seen during WWII and shows us how even during the darkest times people continue living.

Liesel was a wonderful character, her love affair with books fascinated me, from a girl who couldn't read a single word to someone who is starving for more words. She is fierce and gentle, she is brave and a coward, Leisel is a girl trying to find her self in a world where nothing makes sense. Leisel is real, she is you and she is me.

"She was the book thief without the words.

Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.” 

Death narrates the book throughout and beware he does give a lot of spoilers away. At first it was hard to get used to and I know a lot of people may give up because of this but please don't, once I got used to it I started to really like hearing from Death. He sees humanity in such a wonderful way, we are glorious and yet we are so ugly.

“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.” 

This book will stay with you long after you finish reading it, it will inspire and leave you awed and yes it will make you cry.  No matter how much Death tries and prepare you for the ending, it will leave you feeling profoundly sad and at the same time shows how people can continue to live on after suffering such profound tragedy. Liesel is a character that will stay with me for a long time.

My rating: 4

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