The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a spectacular story of a young little girl who moves to her foster home soon after the death of her younger brother. Plagued by visions of her brother’s death, the book revolves around the evocative life of Liesel Meminger and the handful of people who means the world to her. Liesel finds solace in reading and books, and later writing too, and shapes stealing books as her strong hobby. The book is set in Germany during the World War and gives an insight about how the war affected the common people, who didn’t want anything but a normal and a peaceful life. The men were forced to take part in the war leaving behind their family, with no guarantee of seeing them again.
The author soars by having “Death” narrate the entire story. Having Death as the narrator sends an initial restlessness, a shiver, but quickly enough, Death becomes an interesting character, even gathering my sympathy at times, for having to take someone’s life knowing the person could have a long life ahead. Sometimes, Death even becomes a hero when putting someone’s misery and agony to rest by taking their life. Death comes across the diary Liesel had written and narrates her life, from her eyes.
Liesel is a nine year old girl who grows up to 15 years in the story. She could be a young girl, but her life brings a queer inspiration. Having seen her brother die in front of her eyes, realising her mother left her because she couldn’t take care of her, adjusting to her new home and new parents, identifying her interest in reading books and pursuing it in spite of several hurdles, Liesel Meminger is a beautiful character- courageous, loving, ambitious, persistent, heart-warmingly innocent and empathetic. It’s very difficult not to like Liesel. She is such a sweet heart and your heart goes out to her. Her quick little questions find difficult answering- but only one person could answer that or say takes time to clarify her inner turmoil. Her foster father- her father- her friend, Hans Hubberman.
Hans Hubberman is easily our next Atticus Finch. He is the perfect father who doesn’t force his ideologies on his kids, give them the space to understand life in their own way. He isn’t a perfect man- has his own weaknesses, but that’s what makes him a human. He is the first person Liesel bonds with, strongly. He understands Liesel and her nightmares. The portions where he sits with her during the night (which continues for years), consoling and cajoling her, training her to read with his limited knowledge, gifting her books for her birthday despite his financial crunch, teaching her ways of life- he is Liesel’s hero. He is a man of word and goes to every extent to keep it. For me, the book is principally Liesel and Hans’ bonding, and how that helps Liesel to grow independent.
Apart from Hans, every other character has their own beautiful part to play in Liesel’s life. The Mayor’s wife, who assists Liesel’s thievery indirectly, shows how someone who isn’t close to you can yet play an important role in your life. Max, the Jewish fugitive, plays a significant part too. Liesel probably connects with him mostly as she perhaps saw her own life in his. Rudy, her friend or boyfriend, is such a fun character. From him impersonating Jesse Owens and running in the ground coaling himself in black, to playing a part in the World War, the book effortlessly portrays how the War quickens a child’s growth. A boy becomes a man even before 15 years. Rudy and Liesel are partners in crime and undertake many operations together, which entertain the readers and bring a smile.
For a reader like me who always preferred crime and mystery, The Book Thief was surprising engaging and endearing. The incidents mentioned and the deep meaning behind it leads one to think a lot about life, and how life is short. Life is dynamic- as one gains something, they lose something as well. One shouldn’t always wait for the right time. The right time might never come, so cease the moment.
The Book Thief is a highly recommended book. A perfect 5/5.