The Book Thief
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The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, is narrated by ‘Death’ himself. The story follows Death’s memory of a person he is particularly fond of: Liesel Meminger.
The book begins in 1939, when Liesel Meminger and her brother are sent to live with a foster family in Molching, Munich, after tensions begin rising in Nazi Germany. However, Liesel’s beloved brother dies on the journey, and she is forced to bury him in a graveyard beside the train-tracks.
While fare-welling her brother in the snow, little Liesel finds a book, dropped by one of the men who dug his grave. She doesn’t know how to read, but tucks it away anyway, to remember him by.
At first, Liesel is hesitant of her new Mama and Papa (Rosa and Hans Hubermann). Worried about the whereabouts of her mother, and haunted by the death of her brother, she tries her best to fit in. Liesel is picked on at school for not knowing how to read or write and feels lost in a land where her only friend is an annoying, blonde-haired neighbour named Rudy Steiner.
As time wears on, her new Papa gains her trust and begins to teach Liesel how to read – starting with the book she pocketed from her brother’s grave-site: ‘The Gravedigger’s Handbook’. Slowly, Liesel learns to read and write, finding solace in the words and a special liking of thieving books with her friend Rudy.
The story of Liesel Meminger is one of friendship and tragedy, hopeand pain, and the importance of the words we say, write and read in the defining moments our lives.
This novel is as much devastating as it is life-changing. The narration from ‘Death’ is an important and interesting factor in the novel, providing character depth where there usually is none. This depth gives the reader a glimpse into the ‘souls’ of those who Death knows, and is portrayed in a way that is truly heartbreaking.
The Book Thief is the sort of story that shows that the truth is not always right, or what we want or even what we need, and that where there is darkness, there will surely be light too. The novel lays bare the suffering of so many, in so many different ways – from the Jews, the poor communities and even the Mayor’s wife – everyone hurts over something.
The Book Thief was gut-wrenching, painful and beautiful to read, and should be on everyone’s list of ‘to-read’. This novel truly shows the power of words in the hands of the right people, and also the power of words in the wrong hands. A masterfully written piece, with the ability to unsettle and affirm, all at the same time.