Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I picked up the Book Thief for the Getting lost into a Comfortable Read Challenge. I vaguely knew that the book was about Nazi Germany. I wanted to understand why a book about Nazi Germany could be a comfortable read for somebody. I am glad that I read it and now understand why it is a comfortable read for somebody. Amidst war, human suffering, death and chaos there is innocence, small joys and hope. It is about how books can save somebody's life, even literally.

We have read and seen about untold sufferings of Jews in Nazi Germany. What is the life of the common German citizen one who did not join the party because it is against his conscience? What is the life of a citizen who supports the Nazi party? How did common people live in Nazi Germany? What happened to communists? What did the German children do?

The book thief is about Liesel Meminger, a girl born to communist father who is sent to a foster home. On the way, her younger brother dies. She takes The Grave Digger's Handbook from her brothers funeral, thus starting her career as book thief. She finds the foster home a place of love and care. She finds refuge from her nightly terrors in the loving arms of her foster father, Hans Hubermann and the books he reads to her. Rosa Hubermann is the women with a sharp tongue but with a heart of gold. Liesel makes friends with Rudy Steiner, a neighbourhood boy. She forms a special bond with Max Vandenburg, a jewish fist-fighter who finds refuge in Hubermann's basement.

I found the headlines like chapter headings distracting, I was tempted to just read them and skip the chapter. The chapters are really really short. The story is narrated by Death and I liked this unusual narrator. But isn't he omniscient? There were way too many cuss words.

Death kinds of builds up suspense, pointing out the end is near. He keeps pointing out consequences to action because he did this he is going to face something horrible. Everybody dies and death is horrible. But sometimes it could be worse as Death itself points out. Given the subject and the number of pages (584) it could have been heavy reading. But it isn't, at least, for me. The games the children play, how Liesel and Rudy take to stealing, the library in the mayors house all this, Liesel's small joys, hopes and pains and the relationships she forges with people and more distract you from bigger horrible things happening very near their abode.

An interesting perspective into the lives of Germans during World War Two.


neer said...

I read this last year and found it good in parts. A good book but not a haunting one. Here's my review of it, in case you are interested:

srivalli said...

I found it an interesting perspective as I have not read books about ordinary Germans during the War.

Book Dragon said...

I love your review! I wasn't able to finish it but it might have been a mood thing.

Congrats on reaching four for the challenge!

Clarissa Draper said...

What an intriguing story and to have death as a narrator would be odd. Thanks for the review.