Friday, September 27, 2013

The Book Thief Review

“Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness.”

Words. Sometimes there's too many words and sometimes there's just not enough, or none of them seem to be right. I finished up The Book Thief last night around 4:30 am. I did my best to drag out the ending as much as I could. At one point I just sat in my bed hugging the book to my chest whilst crying and trying to cope with the emotional strain the book had caused. I will be the first to admit that I have a problem when it comes to being overly attached to characters and stories; this was no exception.

The Book Thief, written by Markus Zusak, follows the life of Liesel Meminger, a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany. With the help of her accordion playing foster father, Liesel learns to read using a book she stole during her brother's funeral. Reading and stealing books soon becomes Liesel's distraction from the harsh world around her and ultimately her salvation. The book, narrated by Death, is an observation of friendship, love, and the impact of fear.

“I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that's where they begin. Their great skills is their capacity to escalate.” 

Even though I knew what was to come (just by the way the book is written), I was not prepared to part with characters I had become so attached to. I felt like I was mourning the loss of fictional characters and non-fictional characters alike and my heart ached. It's still hard for me to imagine the fear and destruction of the Holocaust or how any caring person could have acted with such hatred. The Book Thief, in many different ways, answered the how's and the why's by showcasing human nature from an outside standpoint. Even though the Holocaust was in no way justifiable, the book offers an understanding of how words and fear can make all the difference; Hitler's greatest weapon was his words.

“In years to come, he would be a giver of bread, not a stealer - proof again of the contradictory human being. So much good, so much evil. Just add water.” 

I wrote another post about The Book Thief when I first started reading earlier this month. I originally doubted that the book would take me more than a week to finish, but it ended up taking much longer than expected. I don't know if it was the story itself or just my reading pace that slowed down somewhere after the first 100 pages; either way it wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Besides the story itself, one thing that I loved about the book was Zusak's writing style. The little time outs for facts, backstories, and definitions really emphasized the presence of Death and his intrusion into Liesel's story. Another thing that helped cement Zusak into my favorite authors category was the imagery of his writing. He describes a scene in ways I would never have imagined, and yet, I know exactly what he means by "wardrobe woman," "enormous suitcases under the eyes," "hair the colour of lemons," or "silver eyes starting to rust." Markus Zusak is a master of his craft and an genius of words. If you haven't read The Book Thief, or don't know if you want to, I urge you to give it a try. I will however say this, the book is not exactly cheery, and if you're not a fan of depressing books, this might not be for you. This book is definitely worth the time though, at any age.

“I like that every page in every book can have a gem on it. It's probably what I love most about writing--that words can be used in a way that's like a child playing in a sandpit, rearranging things, swapping them around. They're the best moments in a day of writing -- when an image appears that you didn't know would be there when you started work in the morning.”


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