My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When it comes to The Book Thief, I fall short of words to describe how beautiful this book is. Since I feel that I owe Markus Zusak for this wonderful story, I'll do my best.
The Book Thief is a story set in Nazi Germany during World War 2. Something that makes this book unique is that it is narrated by Death but Death isn't portrayed to be anything we imagine him to be like.
A small piece of truth
I don't carry a sickle or scythe
I only wear hooded black robe when it is cold.
And I don't have those skull-likefacial features you seem to enjoy pinning on me from a distance.
You want to know what I truly look like?
I'll help you out. Find yourself a mirror while I continue.
Zusak personifies Death to be an interesting character.
Death is amiable, humourous, thoughtful, soulful, he is trying to understand the humans as much as we are.
“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.”
“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.”
During the dark days of war, Death comes in possession of a book written by a girl name Liesel Meminger who wrote about her life and people around her from the year 1939 to 1943. In a way the title The Book Thief refers to both Death and Liesel, the latter steals books out of hunger for words and pages (how can you not like a sweet and kind character who loves books so passionately?)
It all starts when Liesel is sent to foster care by her mother at the age of 9. Her foster parents Hans Hubermann and Rosa Hubermann are poor Germans living in a town called Molching. Hans Hubermann is a painter by trade and played the accordion. He's a calm, kind and silent man who reflects serenity around him. Liesel takes instant liking for him. Hans Hubermann is my favourite fictional father. Rosa Hubermann is nothing like her husband, instead she's bad-tempered and foul-mouthed but the more you read, the more you realise that the woman has a larger heart than anyone can imagine. Her way of showing love was just very different.
“Make no mistake, the woman had a heart. She had a bigger one that people would think. There was a lot in it, stored up, high in miles of hidden shelving. Remember that she was the woman with the instrument strapped to her body in the long, moon-slit night. She was a Jew-feeder without a question in the world on a man's first night in Molching. She was an arm-reacher deep into a mattress to deliver a sketchbook to a teenage girl”
Just like all towns, Molching was filled with characters. One of them was a boy next door, Rudy Stiener who obsessed with Jesse Owens. Rudy was always destined to become Liesel's best friend, partner and catalyst in crime.
"A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship"
Along with Liesel, Rudy is one of my all-time favourite characters. He's sweet, funny, considerate, gallant and athletic, how could I not fall for him?
"He was the crazy one who painted himself black and defeated the world. She was the book thief without the words."
Zusak shows us that words are powerful and beautiful, they can forge a bridge of friendship between a 10 year old German girl and a 26 year old Jew who seeks sanctuary in Hubermann's basement. Words can wound, words can heal, words can even outlast death.
Zusak is a genius, he has brilliantly portrayed the struggles of common Germans in Nazi Germany. He makes you fall for the characters, he makes you want to care for them, he makes you want to be a part of their story. Zusak portrays happiness, love, joy, friendship, beauty, brutality, grief and pain powerfully in his novel. He is an artist of words, painter of vivid imagination. He has painted the most beautiful and euphonious descriptions and quotes that I've never read before...
“I like that every page in every book can have a gem on it. It's probably what I love most about writing--that words can be used in a way that's like a child playing in a sandpit, rearranging things, swapping them around. They're the best moments in a day of writing -- when an image appears that you didn't know would be there when you started work in the morning.”
“In years to come, he would be a giver of bread, not a stealer - proof again of the contradictory human being. So much good, so much evil. Just add water.”
“A human doesn't have a heart like mine. The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. 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. Still, they have one thing I envy. Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die.”
“Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness.”
“His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do - the best ones. The ones who rise up and say "I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come." Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out. More of them have already found their way to other places.”
The Book Thief made me cry but I'm not giving it 5 stars because it managed to do that. I'm giving it 5 stars because I loved the story, I cared for the characters, I felt their joy, pain and loss, I laughed with them and cried with them, I got immersed in their story. The Book Thief is a gem to treasure.
I'll leave you with some more quotes...
[ (hide spoiler)]
~Review by Ayesha