Its been a while since I did a full book review but I am so excited to start raving about this book. This one is very different and it is now one of the top 5 books I have ever read, I would definitely be recommending this book to anyone I come across.
Let me start by saying that I would be taking about a lot of triggering topics and I just want you to be aware of that but I don’t really think I have anything to worry about as I think I am the last person on earth to read this book. You might already know what this book is about but I hope my perspective will be fresh and entertaining.
I decided to break my review into 3, the people, the books and the place/war/country. This book relies heavily on the joys of childhood weaved in the threads of war.
Before going into the review I will just tell you briefly what the book is about. So we follow the life of a young girl named Liesel, has she navigates life in a new home and with new friends during the second world war in Germany. This story is told by death and that just increases the mystic of the book. It was what made me really want to read the book. Death is so humorous, that was weird to say but you will get it if you like dark humor.
“I’ve seen so many young men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They’re running at me” This is one of my favorite quotes from the whole book. it really shows you the feel of the whole book. Here Death was talking about men at war, who seem to be running towards the enemy to kill them and protect their lands, only death see it as them running towards him.
This isn’t really a review but basically you can check online and you will find a plethora of information about this story. I just have a few things to point out. I will break down this post based on a few characters that really stood out to me starting with Max and ending with Liesel who is the main character of this book.
I decided to start with Rudy because although he like others met an unfortunate end, he was a very crucial person in the development of the story. He was almost always with Liesel and he was technically her partner in crime and he was also in love with him. He was a very pure person, there was something about his mischief that was backed by childlike innocence. He was also very strong and he wasn’t the type to yield even in the face of deadly bullies. His friendship with Liesel brought the light heartedness that was needed into a world smeared by war and death.
I couldn’t for the life of me stop thinking of him as ‘the man in the basement’. He is the son of one of Hans friend and he came to seek shelter from the Germans. it was quite eye opening as this showed that no matter the situation there will be people who are not fanatical. There was something that really confused me about the Jew German situation, if Max’s father was a Jew and in the military with Hans Hubermann, why would they be suddenly hunted by the Germans again.
‘How do you know if someone is a Jew?’ because it seemed to me like being a Jew was written on the forehead and that was how they could follow Max around. I was so freaking confused. Is it the skin color or what because I just can’t figure it out?
Max wrote two books which he made for Liesel, ‘The Standover Man’ and ‘The Word Shaker’, both personal and powerful stories which I will talk about more in a bit.
As much as I would like to believe that everyone was like the Hubermanns and didn’t like war, there was Frau Diller who without any other words to describe it, loved and respected Hitler and was a crazy fanatic in my opinion. She would make people Heil Hitler before she sold anything or even if they needed her help which wasn’t very often because she (as I imagine) is a pointy nose witch. But even with all these I feel she is just one of the people who just thought of the self greater good.
Hans & Rosa Hubermann
They are the couple who took in Liesel, although Rosa had a potty mouth full of insults, she really cared for Liesel. She was also very hardworking although she complained about everything. She is a good representation of comfort, strength and compassion in the time of war. She was as strong as she could be and as vulnerable as the tough times allowed. the fact that she took in a jew even when her son walked out of the house hating Hans because he helped out Jews in the past. Honestly the son was almost not important in the context of things but it really showed how war and blind faithfulness can tear apart a family.
She is the wife of the mayor who lost her son years ago and has resigned are life to staying at home. Things lit up for her when she meet Liesel who had a love for reading and she introduced her library to her. She was a really important part of this book as I felt like she though Liesel strength in the face of loss and pain and how to overcome and find her own strength.
Frau Holtzapfel and Michael Holtzapfel
This relationship was so sad. Markus Zusak did a wonderful job writing the build up of these characters in this book. We started out thinking of Frau Holtzapfel has an annoying woman who kept spitting on the Hubermann’s door but we slowly progressed to her loneliness and her sons who were fighting in the war. When Micheal comes home after losing a limb and news of the painful death of her other son. Things take a tragic turn when he couldn’t live with the decision he made to leave his mother behind during a bomb raid.
Although she was the main character in this book and we sort of see things through her young eyes. She wasn’t really that interesting to me, Death has more quirk than her and it made the storytelling spectacular. She is known through out the book as ‘The book thief’ but she stole more than books, not to talk of all the fruits she stole. I will talk a bit about the books she stole and how they help structure her thoughts and life.
She lost her brother on her way to Himmel street, this was her first encounter with death and it soon became an eye opening experience for her. It was also at this time that she stole her first book. The graveyard book could point to the necessity that she felt at that time.
The Gravedigger’s book
This was the first book she stole and it really pointed at the necessity she felt at the time of her brother’s death. I felt it was something she took not just because of curiosuity but more that she wanted something that was left of her brother although he didn’t belong to him. He was buried in the cold hard ground the book described. Hans read this book to her until she was able to read on her own, even when he himself was exactly vast in language.
The Shoulder Shrug
This is a book she stole for the pile of books that was burnt, this was when Ilsa Hermann caught her stealing. How she felt was described as “Beneath her shirt, a book was eating her up”. I though of it as the book still burning but not from the flames but from the fact that she stole something was eating her up again.
The Standover Man and The Word Shaker
These are stories written and illustrated by Max and he wrote them for her, one as a birthday gift the other he left behind when he left the basement. (I won’t go into each story) In ‘The Standover Man’ he used a bird to depict protection just like when earlier in the book Liesel had said that his hair looked like feathers, he felt like he had always been protected by men, his father, his friend and now Liesel
In ‘The Word Shaker’ he was I think referring to when people come together they can beat the greatest evil. It is a precious story.
I am not going to talk about all the books she stole including the ones she stole from the Hermann library you would have to read the book yourself to find out and I can promise you that it is one that you would enjoy, I just wish I had read this book earlier.
I have never experience any war and I pray and hop it remains that way. I have watched and ready to much about war but no one can really understand the depth of loss, anguish and pain that people go through during that time. Fathers, Sons, Parents, Uncles, Families are usually causality of war. its unimaginable what it feels to walk out of a basement and realize that all that you know and love has vanished and where you stand is a ghost town. Although this book isn’t one that would make you sob, it is more of a reflective and gut wrenching book that leave you thinking for days. With Death as the narrator, we get to see a lot of things that we usually over look in war, the people. People who start wars are always following some sort of deranged idealogy that getting what they want is more important that lives lost. we also see all the young men and women who sacrifice their lives trying to make the world a safer place although sometimes the leader they follow isn’t the right one. ‘Duty till Death’ I kept thinking of this still I finished the book.
I hope you will one day read this book.
I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars. It was just spectacular.
Thanks for reading. Have you read this book? Did you enjoy it?