Where do I begin describing this book? Some books buy a permanent place in your heart and refuse to leave your mind; this is one such book.
- Is set in the backdrop of WWII,
- Has Death as the personified narrator,
- Talks about the life of a young German girl, Liesel Meminger
– there is no stranger combination.
Yet, Markus Zusak blends all of these elements perfectly to create a novel so powerful that it has earned its place in every reader’s Favorites list. Because of its simplicity, The Book Thief is capable of being a comfort book for many.
Zusak has taken amazing efforts to keep the book in the simplest terms, throughout.
If he intended for it to be viewed from the child’s perspective, not once did he falter. Even the most cruel, most grim instances of the war were presented from Liesel Meminger’s POV.
In stark contrast to her is her next door neighbor and best friend Rudy. Liesel and Rudy have a lot of adventures which bring them closer as buddies and at times ‘partners in crime’. Rudy is the strongest character in the book next to Liesel. His spirited determination and outright boldness shaped him into a righteous teenager recruited into Hitler’s Youth, which is where he resents the Dictator’s rule. The presence of Rudy is always full of life and contagious enthusiasm for Liesel. Not to mention his constant pestering for her kisses; one of the poignant moments is when she actually kisses his lips.
Although the entire story is seeded in the World War II, we are presented with as little war as possible. Instead the author has shown us the trepidation of the German simpletons and Jewish refugees before war; the effects and aftermaths of such times are truly disturbing and heart wrenching.
Every chapter is named after a book, invariably one that she steals, that influenced Liesel’s life. Readers can’t help but endear the things that ‘words’ teach her. By the time Liesel is 13 years old she has already suffered through the loss of her real family, learned to read and write without attending school, become a seasoned book thief, earned the love of her best friend Rudy, and gained the maturity that only war can instill.
Some of the words strike us so hard that it takes us aback. For instance, the final line of the book, Death says “I am haunted by humans’.
When I ruminate over the truth in these simple words I am astounded. The story of Himmel Street residents might seem insignificant in the entire war for Power of the world, but they sure did win Death over.