The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Rated: 5 stars

Read: June 23, 2020

Eight years in between readings I think, meant to be perhaps because I learned more in the ensuing years. Had accumulated more backstory of the war through several mediums, most significantly after having read The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, plus several fictions like Eye of the Needle by Ken Follet to more domestic locals in La’s Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith. Not least of which was my visit to Dover Castle, the tunnel tour.

It was heartbreak all over again, of course. It was damnation and redemption all in one told by the guy we all heard of, the one we’ll all have the chance to meet. The writing style took some getting used to then and even a little still now but I find I liked it because the use of similes, metaphors, and a technique I can’t quite pin down, they made paintings of scenes.

At the beginning of the book, the clinging, filthy, and bruised girl was in many ways similar to the end. She was still filthier, and battered and clung still to what she could. But she was different too.

I appreciated it was a story from the viewpoint primarily of a German, the “acceptable” sort at least. Not all citizens were froth-at-the-mouth Jew-haters and radical nationalists, similarly not all people who were registered members of the Nazi party were actually Nazis themselves, it was a beneficial thing, that: it was a protective measure to conform, for those especially who were repulsed by the regime. No one was more so reluctant than Hans Huberman. And that Rosa, woman like a wardrobe, she had a heart as big if you dared to look twice.

It’s also interesting to note that Hans was a house painter like der führer. I dare say like two sides of a coin; both German, yes, though while one side was a monstrous caricature of human hatred, ego and deception; and the other one, the best side of us, that shone like warm silver and reflected empathy, kindness, and integrity in the face of a consuming fear.

There is so much to talk about but my mind would only let me output so much until it refused to sort the thoughts from the tangled yarn. So the rest of this will be messy, as I’m not yet one of those reviewers who’ve gotten this stuff down pat, streamlined thoughts like the wings of an albatross. I’m still in the chick phase, they’re not necessarily pretty bubs.

Hans’s connection to Max and the intricacies of their fates. Someone said he was like another brother to Liesel. I believe they were essential to each other’s existence.

I am not going to talk about a certain lemon haired boy. I will never be ready.

Liesel might have been a wirey whip of a girl but was she tenacious. I can’t help but see a pattern emerging from her illiteracy, her wanting to be educated, her budding but tenuous relationship with the mayor’s wife, achieving competence to the level that her reading kept the imagined whistles of bombs at bay in that cramped basement. She became the word giver to me then. Then, then finally she wrote the words. Her own.

But you know what, Max did put it out there in “The Word Shaker”. Exactly what I was going to say. Even if only Death (and plus or minus a good few thousand of us) read her diary, it was a tsunami against Nazi rhetoric. She wrote of a life lived in all its lack of baths, hidings, euphoric ramblings with a best friend and thievery, fear and shame … and the familiarity of love. These were not words that whittled a nation down to concentration and the near decimation of a people. She was her father’s daughter, flaws and all.

I will always be jolted at the very last pages, a full circle come round. So much still I want to say but I’ll let the words rest right here for now. I’ve read it more from an emotional state of mind, as it is highly charged in depictions that hit right in the feels, others have taken a more in-depth or critical approach and I respect that, as I have benefited much from their perspectives. As books go, I’m tempted to say this is one of the best I’ve clapped eyes on.

Thank you, Mr. Zusak

P.S.: the first review still exists in the archives, but due to the cringe of hindsight I’m reluctant to link it. Just putting that out here.

Header photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels

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Filed under Books, Fiction, Historical

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