Thursday, March 10, 2016

Throwback Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

By Markus Zusak
Read: Nov 10, 2012

 “It's probably fair to say that in all the years of Hitler's reign, no person was able to serve the Führer as loyally as me. A human doesn't have a heart like mine. The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I'm always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both. Still, they have one thing I envy. Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die.

Another book club read. And it was great.

I love that the book was written in deaths perspective. It gave another view into the Holocaust that I haven’t read before. His descriptions of his ‘job’, of the skies, of human nature are superb.

"So many humans. So many colours. They keep triggering inside me. They harass my memory. I see them tall in their heaps, all mounted on top of each other. There is air like plastic, a horizon like setting glue. There are skies manufactured by people, punctured and leaking, and there are soft, coal-coloured clouds, beating, like black hearts. “

It follows Liesel, a 9 year old German girl, on her journey of stealing books from Nazi Germany book burnings and even the mayor’s wife.   She learnt how to read by her father and shares her gift by reading to people in the bomb shelters, and even to the Jewish man hidden in their basement. Her stealing isn’t crazy though. They are methodical and she cherishes every single book she takes.
The mom, Rosa is painted as a hard ass who swears a lot. Being German I can definitely identify with the type of woman Zusak was portraying. Although she is hard on Liesel, you can tell she loves her as her own. The father, Hans, the calmer one of the two, is one of my favorite characters of this book.   He is patient, understanding of having a foster child, and is shown as a man of his words when the son of one of his friends shows up at his door and he takes him in. The man at the door is Jewish.  Which, given the time was not exactly a person you want hiding in your basement.  
Max and Liesel become good friends, he even writes a book for her. It was a beautiful story about his life and to add some more descriptive magic it was written on the back of Mein Kampf.   After many scares, eventually Max has to leave the confines of the basement.*Spoliers*It was heartbreaking to read the part where Liesel sees that Max has been captured by The Nazis and is being forced to walk to one of the concentration camps, tears almost formed (who am I kidding, they did). 
Zuzask wrote with such great descriptions of every character, main or not, that you believe the importance of why they were mentioned in the first place.  And I wish my review of it was written as well as he did for being a first time author.
I recommend this book to anyone. Don’t let the setting of the Holocaust scare you away. 4.5 stars.

“Please believe me when I tell you that I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born. I even kissed a few weary, poisoned cheeks. I listened to their last, gasping cries. Their vanishing words. I watched their love visions and freed them from their fear.”

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