Although there are many references to this book by Forum members, I can't find a dedicated thread.
You may like to read my thoughts on the subject - and post your own comments.
(Note: Contains short quotes from various chapters but no plot spoilers).
“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak is a superb book or a depressing read depending on how I felt when I picked it up. The concept of fantasy and WWII Nazi occupation in Germany is a clever one because who better to narrate this harrowing tale than ever-present Death himself.
Liesel Meminger is an absorbing creation, like a candle in the dark, she moves through a grim world which Zusak barely needs to describe because I have vivid images already in my mind from other sources. This doesn’t make it any the less graphic, emotionally torturous or twisted rather like Max “his body felt like it was being screwed up into a ball.”
Young Liesel finds a book in the snow and it's her first act of book thievery. There are moments of humour although any joy is quickly dismantled. There is a Liesel moment I interpreted as joy which is both subtle and understated until I remembered comparison text earlier in the book:
The Next Temptation, page 489, “This time there were biscuits. But they were stale. They were Kipferl left over from Christmas and they’d been sitting on the desk for at least two weeks. Like miniature horse-shoes with a layer of icing sugar, the ones on the bottom were bolted to the plate. The rest were piled on top, forming a chewy mound. She could already smell them when her fingers tightened on the window ledge. The room tasted like sugar and dough and thousands of pages.”
Then earlier in The Flag, page 13, “Within minutes, mounds of concrete and earth were stacked up and piled. The streets were ruptured veins. Blood streamed till it was dried on the road and the bodies were stuck there, like driftwood after the flood. They were glued down, every last one of them.” At least Liesel gets to share the biscuits with her friend Rudy.
The Duden Dictionary and Death’s entries are almost tiny stories in themselves. And there are chapters I can’t read without tears. I get the feeling many Jewish family memories have been poured into this book as a tribute. On pages 299-300, Zusak writes almost biographically “Originally Max had intended to write his own story. The idea was to write about everything that had happened to him – all that had lead him to a Himmel Street basement – but it was not what came out. Max’s exile produced something else entirely. It was a collection of random thoughts and he chose to embrace them. They felt true.”
I would recommend “The Book Thief” to people of strong, determined constitutions because this book will linger on your mind. Zusak reinforces the fact that it was a truly terrible time in human history and that both good and bad elements of human nature are never defeated until Death arrives. As Death said “Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die.” However, I do think the opposite of that is true.
"Every story has three sides to it - yours, mine and the facts" Foster Meharny Russell