I know I am a few years too late on this book. But for some reason I didn’t get to this book until very recently. And I am glad I did read this book ultimately because it was an experience. Rarely does a book grip you and then ends leaving such a spectacular after-taste that you know immediately that it will stay with you for a long, long time. And this is one such book. It was life-altering for me. It changed my perspectives a lot and I like to think that it helped me to grow up a little bit more.
HERE IS A SMALL FACT – YOU ARE GOING TO DIE
1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.
SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION – THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH
It’s a small story, about:
some fanatical Germans
a Jewish fist fighter
and quite a lot of thievery.
ANOTHER THING YOU SHOULD KNOW – DEATH WILL VISIT THE BOOK THIEF THREE TIMES
The first part of this book was a little bit slow. There was a lot of character building in this part of the story. An interesting aspect of this book is that it is narrated by Death. And in the era in which this story is set, Death is almost like an old friend. Its comforting and caring. This is the feeling I got throughout the book. Another feeling I got throughout this book is that everyone is going to die. Of course this was not true. The story picked up when Max arrived and all my favorite moments of the book have either Max or Rudy in them.
The biggest part of this book is taken up by the characters. Liesel Meminger or the Book Thief arrives on Himmel Street when she is ten. The story takes place till she is thirteen. Each and every character she encounters have a distinct trait which makes you fall in love with them, over and over. There is Papa, Mama, Rudy, Max, Ilsa Hermann, and many other characters but these are the ones that stand out. The late-night conversations between Papa and Liesel are the ones I will treasure for a long time. It is made clear from the very start that Mama does not express her love for anyone but that does not mean she never loves anyone and the proof of her love is given again and again in this book. There is Rudy, with whom every moment is precious. As Death confirms twice, it is the children who often gain more perspective of life than adults. And I thought Rudy was one such character who saw through a lot of people. Then there is Max, whose condition was often described by using the words “filthy Jew”, thereby confirming just the opposite. I, personally, would have liked a few more moments with Ilsa so that I could learn more of her backstory.
The story has a major motif of colours running throughout it. Death always describes what the colour of the sky was when a particular person dies. And this motif also created a visual imagery which made me feel as if I was living through the incidents in this book. The words and language is also given importance in this book and though there is the use of a lot of metaphor and irony in this book, I am not going to describe them here.
All I want to say is that if you haven’t read the book yet, give it a try. This book, somehow, kept me reminding of “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini. The flavour of these two books are similar. And just to clarify, no I didn’t cry while reading this book. It is maybe because, on some level, I expected the deaths that happened (as I mentioned before). But I did experience a lot of conflicting emotions in this book. I am also well-aware that I did not get many facets of this book in the one time I have read it. I am going to probably discover a thousand things I missed during my many re-reads. But what I did get was enough for me to fall in love with it. As Death ended the book by saying that “I am haunted by humans“, I will end this discussion by saying that I am haunted by your book, Mr. Markus Zusak.
My rating – 5/5.
My Goodreads rating – 5/5.