Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Published: March 2006 by Knopf Books.
It took me a while to say, "okay, I'll read this book now." It's been on my "To Read" list on GoodReads for a long time. I guess I just didn't want to tackle the whole Nazi Germany thing. I also didn't want to feel sad. There's a type of sadness that a book can make you feel that is completely different than watching a sad movie or TV show. When a book makes you feel sad, you feel it to your core. There's no actors right in front of you to make you immediately rationalize that, "it's just a movie" and "these people are just actors." Which is weird, because the characters from a book exist in your mind--you build them up any which way you like. Which, with the help of the author, is what makes it so hard to see sad things happen in a novel. Your brain attaches you to these characters in a much more intimate way than your favorite character in a film or TV show. But, don't get me wrong, Six Feet Under made me cry like a baby when it ended. Books are just powerful little things and this novel was no exception.
Narrated by Death, we are taken back to Nazi Germany and follow the life of Liesel, a young girl living with foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Jews are being persecuted and this family hides a young man named Max in their basement. Death, in particular, was very interesting to me. He had emotion and attachment to this story in particular --the story of the Book Thief. Examples of the way Death talked to us, the readers:
A SMALL PIECE OF TRUTH
I do not carry a sickle or scythe,
I only wear a hooded black robe when it's cold.
And I don't have those skull-like
facial features you seem to enjoy
pinning on me from a distance...
(Location 3891, on Kindle.)
Five hundred souls. I carried them in my fingers, like suitcases. Or I'd throw them over my shoulder. It was only the children I carried in my arms. (Location 4298.)
Why is it called The Book Thief? Liesel steals books to learn how to read and ultimately becomes obsessed with them. She lives for words. They bring her, Hans and Max together. Books give her hope and understanding in a world as confusing as Nazi Germany.
But, the act of stealing books isn't what this book is about. This book is about relationships-- Family, friends (her best friend Rudy is a little spitfire!) and illegal friends (harboring Jews, helping starving Jews in the street, etc.)
This book is also beautifully written. An example:
Great obese clouds.
Dark and plump.
Bumping into each other. Apologizing. Moving on and finding room.
I ended up crying like a baby at the end. It's sad. You become so invested in all the characters and are let down immensely. Who was my favorite character? Hans Hubermann, without a doubt. He was so kind and he was a good man who didn't agree with what Germany as a whole was doing.
Read this book. It's a new classic.