Read: July 10th, 2011
My Rating: 5 Stars
It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.
From the Hardcover edition.
Today, Sunday the 10th July, around 1:55 AM, I had finished the most beautiful book I’ve ever read. A book, though breathtakingly beautiful, showed mankind at its worst and its best. How? I have no words that could tell you. Maybe the words were there, but they weren’t enough, no amount of them could ever be.I couldn’t find one word that could that could describe the way this book made me feel as I burned through its pages full of life and death and as I read every single word it held so dearly.
Words, words, words. It was also the story of Liesel’s love affair with words and yet the words themselves could not do her story any justice. I’m sure, sure as Death, sure that even from the moment I read the first words that I was then a lifelong fan of Marcus Zusak. Assigning Death the narrator was truly original – as I’ve yet to see another book with the notion – very unusual indeed. He gave Death a personality, a personality that was interesting and that had drawn my attention and approval from the very start. Deaths was kind, had a sense of humour and believe it or not, he had a heart.
Now I shall attempt to share and describe my thoughts and my feelings. It was like riding some sort of emotional roller coaster that had begun slowly and gradually gained momentum. Happiness had been constant after the cloudy days, but that didn’t mean that sadness and despair wouldn’t catch up. They did. Oh, yes they certainly did.The ride had been bumpy here and smooth there. I was drawn to Liesel, to her innocence, the way see saw the world and the monsters in it through her observant childish eyes. Her world was a dark one but now there was her new Papa and Mama, Hans and Rosa Hubberman, and not forgetting our lemon headed friend, Rudy Steiner. They shone through her gloomy days of black, lonely cloud filled sky like bright stars of hope.
Then there came the books, how could I forget the books. Liesel and her beloved books. And Frau Herman who gave some. She had stolen one even before she could have even read, but Hans, her Papa, her gentle Papa taught her how to speak their language, how to use them, to befriend them and in return the words had comforted her and accepted her as a dear lifelong friend. Her not-so-gentle Mama was there helping Liesel along in her own special way. Oh and Rudy! Oh, boy, Rudy! I loved him. I loved him for being him. I loved him for his will and character. I loved him for being a fighter, for not giving up. For his spunk and his pranks. Most of all, I loved him for just being there, his existence alone brings a smile to my lips, salty with tears, and for being there for the book thief.
Then there came Max. Max who, in my opinion, had a great impact on Liesel’s life. They both had much in common. A filthy Jew was how many saw him and his kind, but oh, I hope to God that he didn’t think of himself that way because I know and so did Death that Max was nothing of the such, well not filthy, figuratively that is. He was scared and scarred, guilt ridden and was hopeless. But he was kind, thoughtful and creative. Max saw a ray of hope in the book thief. He had lost so much and was full of memories of his family. But he had the Hubberman’s to whom he was extremely grateful for they had put their necks in the line of fire for his, and he also had Liesel who made his days bearable.
This was some ride. Hans was like a father to the girl and considered her his own; he was her Papa after all. The way Liesel would describe him and his accordion and his mannerisms I could clearly see him before me with his silver eyes and gentle loving face. At times I felt that he was my papa too. Hans Hubberman was a strong and honest man.
Liesel was right when she said to herself that this ugly world didn’t deserve Max and Mr. Steiner, nor did it deserve the likes of her Papa and Rudy.
I want to lighten the gloomy atmosphere; it doesn’t do me any good at all.
I enjoyed peeking into their childhood days; Liesel’s and Rudy’s. Rudy the saukrel (that’s German for ‘pig’, which Rudy and Liesel affectionately call each other) who had always longed for the kiss of a certain sticky handed little lady. The best friends stole together, laughed, played and grieved together, but alas… oh, here I go again all gloomy and I nearly spoiled a bit over there too.How they ate their looted fruit, oh and how it came out again, but Liesel had gotten off the hook that time; her sharp Papa blamed the soup! And Rudy’s little war with that Hitler Youth fanatic, Deutscher. And that Jesse Owens incident!
The two of them had guts all right, and that was evident from their other stunt with the Jews and the bread. I must cut this short because I could go on forever. It’s now 3:05 AM and I’m gonna get a hiding (meaning: a severe beating; flogging; thrashing, as mentioned multiple times in the book) myself. Just kidding!
Marcus Zusak is an artist, like Death with his colours, who knows how to paint not only with his variety of shades but with their unforgettable words. Words that will remain with me forever. As long as I live.
I have to admit that the bits of profanity, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph” and “crucified Christ” had me chuckling.
I’ve learned that war is an evil that masquerades as a necessity for defense and, ironically, for peace. Though The Book Thief may seem just another book, it’s not. It was a reality for the countless Liesels, Maxes, Rudys, Mamas’ and Papas’ back then. A reality for Jews and the Germans and people all over the world. And it still is a reality. People are still living and going through what Liesel had. Yes, today, as I write this review. Today as you read it. War.
The Fuhrer has made himself an enemy of me. Dead or alive, it’s the plain damn truth. The war was stupid and senseless, precious lives were lost for nothing at all but for a crazy man’s stupid belief, his prejudice and arrogance.
I must now conclude that the end of that roller coaster ride was rough, rough I tell you. Bumpy beyond belief. Sharp turns, sudden breaks. So high and so steep was that fall, I nearly hurled off of my seat.
Oh, God, I cried on this early Sunday morning as I sat on the washing machine in the laundry room when I had finished Death’s last words:
“I am haunted by humans.”
Forgive me, but: Oh, Christ, oh Crucified Christ! I think can relate.
Read a little more on The Book Thief.
*Cross posted from my reviews on Goodreads.