Heard of books that feed the soul? The Book Thief may well be considered one. Let me tell you at the onset, this book isn’t for those who seek a light and quick read. Nor is it for those, who like all things bright and happy.
The Book Thief is for you if you love to get right into the skin of the characters. It is for you if experimental fiction thrills you. It is for you, if you love reading about the Holocaust, even if it is something you have heard enough about.
Set in Nazi Germany, it is the unforgettable story of Liesel Meminger, who is left in the care of the Hubermanns by her mother, when she is no longer able to afford her care. Meagre existence, the times of Hitler’s reign, bomb raids and the lurking fear of shrouding a Jew in their home, young Liesel sees it all. Yet, amidst all this, she discovers something she cannot resist- her love for books. It all begins, with Liesel’s brother passing away, and she finds herself stealing her first book- The Gravedigger’s Handbook. She considers it her last link to her brother. Nightmares begin to haunt her each night after that, of her brother’s death. But slowly in the care of her foster father Hans Hubermann, she finds warmth, and learns to read.
Liesel begins to settle down in her new life on Himmel Street. Despite the fear filled times of Nazi Germany, she finds herself bonding with Rudy, stealing food from farmers and, books from the mayor’s library. The book traces the events of World War II, with loved ones joining the Army camp, attacks by the Allies, and bomb raids. Liesel finds life disrupted, strewn across, as she fights to pick up its threads and weave it back in place. But how successful is she? What does life have in store for her post the war? The poignant book would surely leave a lump in your throat, as you bring that last page to a close.
“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.”
― Markus Zusak,
Markus Zusak’s Book Thief is surely startling in many ways. However, be prepared to sink into its vastness. The book is big and expansive, all with is 552 pages. It could have been more concise. There are portions that stretch and make reading slow. But then, it gives you a better understanding of life in those fear filled years of Nazi Germany.
What stood out in the book is the unique perspective, with “Death” as the story teller. The story of Liesel, brought out in a philosophic way, from death’s point of view. Yet, this book is nothing about death and dying. The writing is elegant, with expressive metaphors. Zusak throws in fate and chance encounters, to make them collide in a seamless fashion.
It surely is yet another book about the Holocaust. I wouldn’t want to compare this with the masterpiece- Schindler’s Ark. But, The Book Thief does a fair amount of justice to the subject. I wasn’t soaked in tears when I completed it, but yes, did sit in pensive though for a while. It is no easy read, and it takes a while for the book to fully sink into you. You need to give this book that time, to savor and truly appreciate all the metaphors and personifications it holds.