The Book Thief

11 06 2010

Before I picked up The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, I had these conceptions about it – that it’s a somewhat sloppy mystery book, in which a clever thief leaves the clues about him in the plots of some all-time well-known books or that he uses the stories from various books in his thievery. Ha! I really don’t know what gave me that idea. My imagination sometimes just runs wild!! 🙂

With these prenotions, let me confess that I wondered about the reason for its popularity. So, it is just to quench my curiosity that I picked this book up. I didn’t know at that time that I would be pleasantly surprised by it.

The reality couldn’t be farther from my expectations. It turned out to be a holocaust novel. Hmm… And guess who the narrator is! It’s Death. Gosh! For the first few pages, I was not sure whether I would really want to read it to the end. In those pages, Death speaks about the colors of sky when he picks up souls and all that somewhat creepy stuff.

This book is set in a German town Molching during the Second World War time. The story revolves around a girl named Liesel Meminger, who is a book thief. She has not always a thief, though. It starts when she picks up a book called – The Gravegigger’s handbook at her brother’s grave.  Books and words play an important role in her life.

The grimness of the subject and the gruesome circumstances of those times coupled with the brilliant narration of the author has left me haunted by The Book Thief. The characters -Liesel Meminger, her foster parents – Hans Hubermann and Rosa Hubermann, Max (the jew, whom the  Hubermanns tried to hide and protect), Rudy Steiner (neighbor and best friend of Liesel), Ilsa Hermann (the mayor’s wife) – all remain with me  for a long time to come.

I was especially fascinated by Max’s sketch book – The Word Shaker, depicting Hitler as someone whose primary weapons are words. It’s beyond my understanding how one person could do so much destruction – destruction of lives, how one person is capable of so much violence and brutality.

Tears welled up in my eyes at many points as I read through the book and I literally cried a few times. The scene where Liesel discovers Max among the demeciated jews on their way from the concentration camp to a neighboring town was really heart-wrenching. As per the author, Liesel kissing dead Rudy’s lips was the most difficult part of the book for him to write, emotionally speaking. But for me, the effect of it was lessened by the author’s reluctance to hold the suspense to the end and the premature revelation of the events that would occur later.  

 The novel was an absolute compulsive read. Everything was so unexpected that the pleasure of reading had been  multifold and the element of surprise had enriched the whole experience. I always feel that reading a book is like a journey, it’s an experience. And The Book Thief offered me one of the best.

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26 12 2010
My reading in 2010 « Peek Inside My Mind

[…] name a book from this year’s list, which I’ve liked the most, it would undoubtedly be The Book Thief by Mark Zusak. It touched me, surprised me, and above all shook me. I read only a few mysteries (by James Hadley […]

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