The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a story of Liesel Meminger, a young German girl caught in the throes of Nazi Germany “liberation” during World War II. It is narrated by Death.
I’ve read a few books with Death as a character (e.g. Death in Discworld WHO TALKS LIKE THIS) and The Book Thief’s Death is sad, tired and over-worked in World War II. He talks fondly of Liesel, the book thief, and members of other impoverished German families on Himmel Street. There was Rudy, who painted himself black and wanted to be Jesse Owens; Hans and Rosa Hubberman, Liesel’s foster parents; and a Jewish fist fighter.
I will never forget these characters, and I will never forget that side of Nazi Germany I learned from this book – that bright side where Germans hid their Jewish friends in their basements, where people threw scraps of bread to poor Jews marching on to their deaths, and where “Heil Hitler” leave bitter tastes in people’s mouths.
The Book Thief is a wonderful story of a young girl who loved and hated the power of words. But more than that, it is a story of love, friendship and kindness during ugly times.
I read The Book Thief with a tired heart. I was reminded of my own personal loss all throughout, but did I love it? Yes. Do I recommend it? Yes.
Pictures and quotes below.
I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.
He tasted dusty and sweet. He tasted like regret in the shadows of trees and in the glow of the anarchist’s suit collection
When death captures me,” the boy vowed, “he will feel my fist in his face.
Don’t make me happy. Please, don’t fill me up and let me think that something good can come of any of this. Look at my bruises. Look at this graze. Do you see the graze inside me? Do you see it growing before your very eyes, eroding me? I don’t want to hope for anything anymore.
The Germans in basements were pitiable, surely, but at least they had a chance. That basement was not a washroom. They were not sent there for a shower. For those people, life was still achievable.
I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race – that rarely do I even 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…I AM HAUNTED BY HUMANS.
BONUS: The bookmark I used for this book is a Van Gogh.