Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

It's possible that this book got to me because I'm highly emotional right now, but I doubt that. I think it got to me because it's an amazing book.

The Book Thief is set in Nazi Germany and follows a little girl named Liesel Meminger as she goes about stealing books. That is the plot at its simplest.

It's so much more than that though. The Book Thief is narrated by Death. At first, it was slow reading for me because I just wasn't sure I was ok with Death telling me a story. But, Death turns out to be quite empathetic and a wonderful storyteller. Of course he is. He's seen it all, humans at their best and at their worst.

Liesel is sent to live with a foster family, The Hubermanns. She had just lost her brother and had just stolen her first book. She's unable to read but the book had a strange pull on her so she took it. Once her new Papa found out, he decided to teach her to read. Papa clearly became her favorite although Mama was rough, she clearly loved Liesel as well.

This book and the books Liesel stole have one thing in common. Words. Words have the power to help and heal and the same power to destroy and control. This is obvious with the rise of Hitler, who used the words to his advantage and managed to create a horrific time in history. It's also obvious with Liesel, who, although she stole books, she used those words to heal. She healed herself, Max, her parents, the mayor's wife.

Zusak's writing style is magnificent. It did take me a bit to read this simply because I couldn't stop going back and re-reading sections. In Zusak's world, words are physical. They "are hurled over the shoulder", "ascend the staircase", "are punched into the air".

I admit my eyes kept leaking at the time of the air raids, when Mama becomes more than the character she began as. She becomes Liesel's mother, her arms engulf Liesel out of fear, her "pride is crayoned on her face" as she describes how Liesel helped everyone in the air raid shelter by reading to them.

My eyes full on exploded water when Death stepped in to do his job. The passages were beautifully written and heartrending.

This is the book that got my reading mojo back. I've been wholly uninterested in reading lately and just picked it up off my bookcase because it was there. Now I want more.
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